These days, space-set entertainment tends to go big: Interstellar‘s black hole was the most accurate representation of one to date, Gravity (and Interstellar, for that matter) had a “you have to see it on the big screen!” reputation thanks to its awe-inspiring portrayal of space. But Yahoo’s Other Space does not go big—its set is endearingly simple, its images of outer space more similar to desktop backgrounds than, you know, actual images of outer space. And that’s part of what makes the new comedy so lovable.
Other Space was supposed to air long ago: It was originally sold to NBC about a decade ago, according to producer Paul Feig. “I wrote it and they really liked it, but they didn’t know what to do with it,” the Bridesmaids director told Yahoo. “I loved everything from the title on down, and launched basically an eight-year campaign to get it back.”
Feig tweaked the script, and now it’s a Yahoo web series about a crew of astronauts lost in space in the year 2105. And the premiere instantly establishes that this crew isn’t the most, uh, professional: Stewart (Safety Not Guaranteed‘s Karan Soni of AT&T fame) lets his lust for Tina (Milana Vayntrub, also of AT&T commercial fame) cloud his decisions, his sister Karen (Bess Rous) lets her anger cloud hers. The stereotype of astrounauts being hyper-concentrated, stone-faced, and (usually) rational? Nowhere to be found in Other Space‘s main crew—and that’s refreshing.
One of the less qualified characters is Stewart, Karen’s younger brother and the newly assigned captain of the U.M.P. cruiser. He tries his best to build team morale, most notably by serving them a Thanksgiving meal that turns out to be 35-years-old, but even his sweet efforts aren’t enough to make things better: They soon discover the only edible food on the ship is a huge batch of fudge—and, perhaps even worse, the cruiser ends up traveling through a wormhole that opens for a mere few seconds and drops them into a new universe with no way home. Space is fun!
After they make it through the wormhole, they all find out this was just a simulation—and then their wildest dreams simultaneously come true: Tina tells Stewart she wants to play board games with him (his fantasy), Ted proposes to Tina (hers). But then Stewart figures out the simulation itself is simulated. They actually did go through a wormhole. They actually are abandoned without any food but fudge.
If this sounds dramatic, it is—but the drama never gets too heavy thanks to the characters’ constant riffing on each other, especially between Stewart and Karen. Even their kind-of-heartfelt conversation at episode’s end devolves into an childish slapping fight that does a good job of lightening up the dire situation and reminding us that these supposedly mature adults aren’t so mature after all.
Aside from the banter-heavy relationships, much of the humor comes from poking fun at the future and its questionable technology: At one point, Tina’s boyfriend Ted presents her with a screen that they can apparently kiss and it’ll feel the same as kissing their human partner. “Did you have Sloppy Joes?” she asks after sloppily macking on the piece of glass. Men wear collar balls (yes, those are balls around their collar) instead of ties; they have a robot with no other purpose but to make sassy comments every now and then. This isn’t the glittering future (or crew) sci-fi so often presents us—it’s one with punchlines and bad-but-funny problems and characters who sometimes don’t seem to have any business being in space. And thanks to that, Other Space is not just a comedy, but also a sci-fi series, worth watching.
Other Space is currently streaming on Yahoo Screen.