There are two exciting reasons to check out Yahoo Screen’s newest comedy series Other Space: It comes from Freaks and Geeks‘ Paul Feig, the first TV series the Bridesmaids director has created since the cult classic, and it marks the reunion of Mystery Science Theater alumni Trace Beaulieu and Joel Hodgson. But even once that novelty wears off, Other Space remains a charmingly weird comedy — and Yahoo Screen’s first suitable companion to Community.
Other Space takes place in the far future, 2105 to be exact, when a ragtag group is sent on an exploratory mission in space. Captained by enthusiastic nerd Stewart Lipinski (Karan Soni), the UMP Cruiser proudly boasts a young, incompetent, and inexperienced crew. Second in command is Stewart’s older sister Karen (Bess Rous), and their sibling rivalry is even worse in space than it was on earth; she stages a coup within a first day. Rounding out the mission is Stewart’s childhood friend Michael (Eugene Cordero) and his unrequited crush Tina (Milana Vayntrub), incredibly pretty human manifestation of the ship’s computer Natasha (Conor Leslie), first boy born on Mars Kent (Neil Casey), and older engineer Zalian (MST3K‘s Hodgson; Beaulieu provides the voice of a robot knowingly named Art). The ship quickly veers off course and into an alternate universe, forcing the crew to work together in order to get back to earth — or at least survive onboard with only a year’s worth of fudge as sustenance.
The series — which is markedly better than Yahoo’s other recent attempt at original comedy, Sin City Saints — relies on absurdity, cutting banter, and funny, low-budget set pieces (the crew is outfitted in plain white jumpsuits rather than fancy uniforms and the special effects are reflective of Yahoo’s presumably small budget), all of which work within the world of the show. With episodes that focus on everything from an alien invasion during a routine game of Mafia to a tiny yet somehow dangerous robot uprising to a crew member’s break-up with her boyfriend on Earth, Other Space recalls the fantastical but character-driven sensibilities of Community, making it a great complement to Community‘s sixth season, also on Yahoo Screen.
The humor takes a stranger and more offbeat approach than that of Sin City Saints, in a way that’s vaguely reminiscent of Community‘s ambitious parody episodes. As they go through a wormhole, the crew members transform into baby versions of themselves, with Natasha regressing into a game of Pong. Later, through some space magic, all of the characters find themselves suffering from a group hallucination and living out their fantasy: Karen takes over the ship and Stewart gets to be with Tina, while Zalian gets a sandwich and Kent engages in a passionate, gross make-out session with his mother — a throwaway joke that actually pays off later on.
In Other Space, the setting works on multiple levels. Not only does it get our crew isolated from the outside world and provides the writers with endless science-fiction plots but it also provides a strange, unique setting for exploring common sitcom antics. Throughout the first few episodes, we get to see a sibling-rivalry dynamic within the context of a possibly doomed mission and how a drunken “girls’ night” plays out on a spaceship (and with a robot who can only simulate drunkenness). In one especially inspired gag, because of the way time works on a certain planet, two crew members go through the motions of an eight-month relationship from beginning to gruesome end — within only six hours.
Based on Paul Feig’s inspired past work, it almost feels as if he’s holding back a bit with Other Space — but it’s a fun and silly enough endeavor nonetheless. The full first season, consisting of eight episodes, debuted early today, and though Other Space may not have the addictive urgency of most bulk-released programs, it’s still worth catching an episode from time to time.