TBS’s newest adult animated comedy is Final Space, a show by Olan Rogers, a relatively untested independent writer and director. Audiences might have heard about Final Space from one of its executive producers, Conan O’Brien. Presumably, this is mainstream syndicated television’s answer to the cultural phenomena that is Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty. While Final Space does not reach the same comedic or conceptual heights as other animated science fiction comedies like Rick and Morty or Futurama, there is certainly enjoyment to be had from the first three episodes—all that has been released so far—as well as potential for growth into a more well-developed show.
Final Space begins in space (the final frontier). The main character, voiced by Olan Rogers, is Gary Space— a little on the nose with the name, but regardless—who has been imprisoned alone on a spaceship for the last five years. His only source of companionship has been an annoying floating robot named KVN (Fred Armisen), a legion of nearly-silent helper robots, and the ship’s computer, HUE (Tom Kenny). Gary’s character is objectively annoying, but this characteristic is not really for the viewer—for the most part at least. Gary goes about his typical solitary day, clearly semi-insane with the combination of crushing loneliness, overbearing narcissism, romantic obsession, and general obliviousness. Gary is swiftly approaching the end of his sentence and, while on a space walk to repair parts of the ship, is met by a floating green alien whom he affectionately names Mooncake (also Olan Rogers).
It is swiftly revealed that Mooncake has the power to unleash incredibly powerful and deadly laserbeams and that he is wanted by the evil Lord Commander (David Tennant). Gary Space must team up with a humanoid cat-creature named Avocato (Coty Galloway) — who is on a quest of his own to save his son, Little Cato (Steven Yeun) — to protect Mooncake. While all of this is happening, across the galaxy a woman named Quinn (Tika Sumpter) is investigating mysterious disturbances in the fabric of space. Quinn is the reason that Gary was imprisoned. In an attempt to impress her, Gary stole a space military uniform and then destroyed dozens of space ships. He has remained infatuated with her and sends her daily video messages from aboard his space prison.
In terms of quality, Final Space is a fairly run-of-the-mill animated comedy. What helps it a lot is the veneer of science fiction it establishes as its backdrop. It is interesting and fun to see the characters interact with spaceships and alien creatures with strange powers. Science fiction also allows Final Space to get away with a lot of wackiness that would feel out of place on Earth.
The voice acting is generally enjoyable as well. It’s fun to hear Tennant do a “bad guy” voice, and Armisen and Kenny do great jobs as intentionally sarcastic and vexing robots and computer systems, respectively. Rogers’ voice for Gary Space can become tiresome at times, especially when he turns hard into the vocal imperfections of Gary’s speech patterns. Often, it feels like Rogers is “turning up” the harsher aspects of Gary’s imperfect voice in order to mirror the jolts and stutters that populate Rick and Morty. These instances are relatively few and far between, however, in the three episodes that have been released thus far, so this problem is only a minor issue.
What keeps Final Space from being as good a show as it might otherwise be is its humor. Final Space isn’t stupid enough to be utterly ridiculous like Harvey Birdman, and it’s not funny or witty enough to be a show like Futurama or Rick and Morty. Its brand of humor lies somewhere in the middle for the first three episodes, trapping it in a limbo of potential. The plot of Final Space is almost much more linear and cohesive than these other shows, feeling like an attempt at weaving together a continuous story. This practice might work better for a show released all at once, but on a week-to-week basis, Final Space relies too heavily on connections that are tenuous and weakened by the parts of the show focusing on comedy.
Final Space would be an enjoyable watch for most people when it is compiled together, either on Netflix or on TBS’s online streaming service, but there doesn’t seem to be quite enough to draw audiences back to their televisions every week.
Featured Image by TBS