Alibi V.27 No.8 • Feb 22-28, 2018 

Idiot Box

Space is the Place

“Final Space” on TBS

Independent filmmaker, actor, comedian and entrepreneur Olan Rogers, whose work has largely been confined to a popular YouTube channel, makes the leap to non-internet-based television with his new series “Final Space.” Produced by Conan O’Brien’s company and aired on TBS, “Final Space” is a serialized sci-fi cartoon with a serious funny streak.

The star-spanning story centers around Gary Space (voiced by series creator Rogers), a cocky but mostly incapable con man running around future Earth. Unfortunately for him, he’s tossed into space jail after impersonating a pilot in order to impress a cute member of the Infinity Guard (Earth’s space age military). For his crime Gary is stuck alone on a working prison ship. His only companions are HUE (famed voice actor Tom Kenny), an overly officious computer, and a “deep space insanity avoidance companion” named KVN (Fred Armisen). Five years later, Gary’s not doing so well. He’s convinced he’s the ship’s captain and has developed an unnatural attraction to a refrigerator. (Also, HUE keeps adding to his sentence for minor infractions.)

One fateful day “Captain” Gary’s insane loneliness is broken when a squishy green beachball of an alien crashes into the prison ship. Gary names him Mooncake and adopts the cute li’l guy as his pet. As fate would have it, though, the evil Lord Commander (“Doctor Who” star David Tennant) is pursuing Mooncake for his own nefarious needs. Soon a horde of well-armed bounty hunters descends upon the prison ship, and Gary is fighting for his life (and possibly the fate of the galaxy).

Underneath its simple, cartoony design, “Final Space” is surprisingly complex. In addition to our addled protagonist, we get storylines involving Avocato, a tough but reluctant bounty hunter who’s being blackmailed into his line of work, and Quinn, the Infinity Guard whom Gary was hitting on who is now in the process of uncovering an intergalactic conspiracy. Steady stream of jokes aside, the show’s tone is occasionally emotional and unexpectedly tense. (The show is actually told in flashback as Gary is dying of oxygen deprivation in the void of space, surrounded by the wreckage of a devastated space fleet.)

Overall, “Final Space” isn’t as rude as “Rick and Morty” or as nerdy smart as “Futurama,” but it certainly plays like the bastard child of those two cartoon faves. The show’s extended pilot serves as a solid introduction to Rogers’ wide universe of action and humor. The ongoing storyline offers just enough mystery to ensure continued viewing. Given the right kind of exposure and some receptive audiences, “Final Space” could easily become its own object of cult obsession.

“Final Space” premieres Monday, Feb. 26 at 8:30pm on TBS.