Friday, February 22, 2013

'Out There'

Virtually no one watched last year's underrated (if uneven) FX animated series Unsupervised, so people probably won't notice how much it has in common with the new IFC animated series Out There. Although both shows have the familiar structure of dumb, vulgar animated comedies, both shows soon reveal themselves as something more thoughtful and true, more interested in the painful peculiarities of being a teen outcast than in crafting lame gross-out jokes.

Like Unsupervised, Out There focuses on a pair of teen misfits who team up against the world, two best friends who bond together almost out of desperation. Out There's Chad and Chris are more typical sullen teenage outcasts (as opposed to the relentlessly positive protagonists of Unsupervised), with crushes on girls and dreams of running away and frustrating parents who don't understand them. The actual plotting of the show isn't particularly groundbreaking, but creator Ryan Quincy has a distinctive personal perspective (much of the show is autobiographical) that shines through, especially in his narration and voicing of main character Chad.

Also like Unsupervised, Out There isn't actually all that funny, but while it does have jokes, it's also built around a sense of melancholy that pervades even the silliest moments. Quincy's narration has a literary quality that feels almost like a reading of a decent short story or personal essay, and there's a real sadness to the characters' efforts to look cool or escape their boring small town or impress a pretty girl. Visually, the characters look like sort of animal/human hybrids (Chad and his brother and father resemble relatives of Cousin Itt), but their behavior is completely grounded and realistic. Out There isn't brilliant -- it has plenty of clumsy moments and jokes that fall flat -- but it has a unique voice that deserves to find more of an audience than Unsupervised did.

Premieres tonight at 10:30 on IFC.

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