As IFC has continues to ramp up the original programming in its lineup, the cable network has become a destination for viewers interested in quirky series. The flagship has been “Portlandia,” but shows like “The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret” and “Bullet in the Face” are very solid and often quite funny. I even prefer the latter two series to “Portlandia.” Non-scripted series like Scott Aukerman’s “Comedy Bang! Bang!” and the goofily great game show “Bunk” are also worthwhile. And Marc Maron’s new series “Maron” — airing this spring — has immense potential.
Basically IFC has become a welcomed addition to the TV landscape, so I had moderately high expectations for the animated series “Out There” from “South Park” producer Ryan Quincy. I was let down by “Out There,” but it has some good to great moments here and there, and could improve as the season goes on.
“Out There” is the tale of social outcasts Chad (voiced by Quincy) and Chris (Justin Roiland) as they navigate high school in their small town. Both Chad and Chris are weird daydreamers who — like many outsiders — can’t wait to escape their small town trappings. Before that can happen they must deal with bullies, awkward encounters with girls and pain-in-the-ass parents.
The first episode opens with the first time Chad and Chris meet. Why Chad is covered in “Teen Wolf” fur is never explained or even mentioned. His father (John DiMaggio) and little brother (Kate Micucci) are also furry but his mom Rose (Meg Mullally) is not, so we can infer it’s paternally genetic. I like it’s just left out there, letting you know “Out There” is just kind of weird because it can be. Both he and Chris are pariahs at their high school, but it’s more because of their introvert nature, not their odd appearance — Chris is a Napoleon Dynamite look-a-like in overalls.
“Out There” shares more in common with Napoleon Dynamite that just the physical appearance between characters. Both have a very '80s vibe without overstating the fact, and both the hit indie quirk-fest film and “Out There” have similar DNA when it comes to storytelling and humor, or lack thereof. “Out There” is not laugh-out-loud funny very often — much like “Napoleon Dynamite” is when Uncle Rico isn’t hurling steaks at people’s faces — but it has some good jokes here and there.
The two father figures, Chad’s overprotective and bumbling dad Wayne and Chris’ mom’s (Pamela Aldon) blueberry wine-drinking boyfriend Terry (Fred Armison), offer the best jokes. Wayne worrying his son is on drugs — resulting in flashbacks to his own sorted past with narcotics and some psycho parent investigating — is fantastic. Terry feels like another Napoleon Dynamite character, a cross between Uncle Rico and Kip, and gets decent mileage out of the uncomfortable humor shtick. Unfortunately the two moms are woefully underused which is a waste of Mullally and Aldon’s considerable talents. The moms do bond at the end of the second episode which hopefully means they get more screen time down the road.
“Out There” may have let me down a bit, but my expectations may have also been misplaced. While I wasn’t laughing as much as I wanted at the various misadventures of our teenage protagonists, I was quite pleased with the narrative in the first two episodes. Each one lets the bond between Chad and Chris carry the storyline and the conclusions are nicely earnest. Maybe “Out There” is better examined as an animated dramady because that’s where it’s most successful in the early going.
10:30 p.m. Fridays on IFC