Paul Feig’s delightfully eccentric “Other Space” begins not with a bang but with a “fart-sneeze.”
In the year 2105, space officer Stewart Lipinski (Karan Soni) inadvertently passes a near-impossible simulation, using the ship’s thrusters to “fart-sneeze” an asteroid into oblivion. In response, his employer quickly promotes the naive youth to captain, gifting Stewart his own ship, the UMP Cruiser. Excited by his newfound authority and eager to explore the vast expanse of space, Stewart arranges a rag-tag crew, composed of friends (Eugene Cordero), love interests (Milana Vayntrub) and his own sister (Bess Rous), and embarks on a journey into the great unknown. As is to be expected, chaos soon ensues and shortly after leaving the comfort of the command center, Stuart and his ill-prepared comrades stumble into a temporary portal to another galaxy. Unfortunately, before Stuart can remedy the error, the portal collapses, leaving the misfits stranded in space, forced to survive on a steady diet of fudge and resentment.
If the whole ordeal sounds rather ridiculous, it’s because “Other Space” is quite possibly the most ridiculous show currently on television. Correction: “Other Space” is quite possibly the most ridiculous show on television save for Yahoo Screen’s other absurdist comedy, the newly reincarnated “Community.” As a matter of fact, “Other Space” actually has a lot in common with Dan Harmon’s cult darling beyond mutual foolishness.
Like “Community,” “Other Space” is truly not afraid to go for broke. When an alien-induced illusion causes all of the Cruiser’s crewmembers deepest wishes to become reality, the ship’s idiotic engineer finds a tuna fish sandwich on the ground while Kent, another loon takes part in a passionate make-out session with his imagined mother. The show’s writers, like those of “Community,” also don’t seem to mind grounding entire episodes in the ridiculous parody of a single idea (think the latter’s “Pillows and Blankets” or “Modern Warfare”). In the third and final of the three episodes screened for critics, the crew of the UMP Cruiser take part in a casual game of mafia, only to become immersed in a real version of the beloved childhood pastime involving lasers and aliens.
Also worthy of note is the show’s near-pitch-perfect ensemble, itself reminiscent of its Yahoo Screen contemporary. Though some of Feig’s creations can come off as a little one-note at first, the gathered cast does a wonderful job breathing life into the show’s central band of halfwits. As Stewart, Soni is the most obvious standout, easily pulling off the inane yet quick-witted banter/shade throwing so easily perfected by Joel McHale and company on “Community.”
With that being said, “Other Space” has a long way to go until it’s on par with Harmon’s “Community.” Put simply, Feig’s latest is most definitely not without its faults. Chief among them are the show’s production design and special effects — which are, quite frankly, atrocious. The cast of “Other Space” rocks what are essentially glorified tracksuits. Views from outside the ship’s cabin are rendered using cheap — and rather measly — LCD screens that somehow manage to pale in comparison to the rear projection of the early silent cinema. And, when the ship’s crew members eventually venture beyond the Cruiser’s interior for a brief spacewalk, the final frontier is created with what essentially amounts to shoddy lighting and lots of wind. Yahoo Screen clearly does not have the finances of streaming competitors like Netflix — or even Amazon — and it shows. Yet, somehow, the show’s effects don’t get in the way of its enjoyment.
Again, “Other Space” thrives on lunacy, and the mind-numbingly cruddy effects actually manage to jive quite well with the show’s rambunctious spirit. When a certain character explodes after being ejected from the airlock, my first thought was not “that was the worst effect I’ve ever seen on television” but was instead “I can’t believe that everyone’s favorite Matthew McConaughey impersonator just exploded into an slimy pile of space mush.”
Yes, “Other Space” may have been shot on a shoe-string budget, and, yes, it is by no means perfect — many of the show’s jokes fall unfortunately flat — but, despite its obvious flaws, “Other Space” has a certain irresistible charm. “Other Space” is stupid, don’t get me wrong, but it’s actually kind of sort of stupid in all the right ways.
Contact Will Ferrer at wferrer ‘at’ stanford.edu