Holy fan service, Batman!

You can’t cast Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu in the same comedy sci-fi project and not have them sit in a room, watch a screen, and riff on what’s going on. Let’s make that a golden rule of television, shall we? It was so entirely comforting watching two veterans fall back into well-loved rhythms of riffage. It could be construed as a cheap move, but it works for “Ted Talks” and the show’s tone as a whole.

The retraction tools Zalien and A.R.T. are tasked with fixing could have malfunctioned due to various reasons stemming from their own ineptitude, but “Ted Talks” allowed them to update their riffing for a new era. Instead of watching shitty B-movies, they are forced to watch reality — the ship was constructed by MTV for entertainment purposes. As they watch, each character gets put into its own archetype: Buzzkill and Muscles replace Karen and Michael. But rather than be passive viewers whose only function is to make jokes, Zalien and A.R.T. get to act like reality producers, pushing the “characters” around as they see fit. In this case, liquoring them up as much as possible.

Continuing the crew’s credo of “We’re really not that good but, goddamnit, we’re good enough!” they must recapture the fuel they had to jettison in “The Death Of A.R.T.” before the planet that formed in the previous episode loses it’s cheese-like consistency. Tina is the only one equipped to handle such duties but loses her shit when she receives a message from her studly German boyfriend Ted that the whole long distance thing (which he had been experiencing for a full day) is not really his style. The solution to her broken heart? Girls’ night. If the ship was built for reality TV, it’s only right that the cast is forced to hang out in manufactured social settings.

At first, I was excited about the potential gender split if only because it would allow for different pairings. While the first two episodes were largely the full ensemble working together, “The Death Of A.R.T.” began to fracture the cast into different plotlines. Karen should have potentially benefited the most from working with Tina and Natasha, both of whom have already-established comedic presences, and I’d like to see all these talented women work together. But they are not given that opportunity, especially as Tina gets involved with an ill-advised hook up involving an unfrozen Amish man. Karen has largely played humorless. But, again, she and Michael are paired together displaying a sexual tension that only they seem to be aware of, which makes sense because it hasn’t appeared in any other contexts.

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While a girls’ night situation would ostensibly be a boon for the women in the cast, it’s actually Eugene Cordero coming out on top, if only because I prefer his inflated confidence to his near-constant simpering. Does it necessarily make sense within the context of his character that he would be so brazen with Karen after spending the first three episodes being terrified and searching for approval? Not entirely. Part of that puffed up esteem could be due to Zalien and A.R.T.’s intervention of tequila, but his desire to hook up with Karen his communicated to Stewart even before shots are passed out. But it’s also the funniest he’s ever been so I’ll take it.

Stray observations:

  • I’m sucker for put-upon drunkeness. Rashida Jones’ Ann Perkins is a champion drunk (in fact, the entire cast of Parks And Recreation are incredible at the faux drunk game). So I am quite judgemental when it comes to this style of drunkenness. Tina, Michael, Natasha, and Karen are all excellent fake drunks.
  • Total missed opportunity not conjuring up some kind of hot tub scene for Other Space’s take on reality TV.
  • “We’re all gonna die.” “Alone.”
  • “You’re closer! And I’m made of light!”
  • “So I faked a panic attack that turned into a real one.”
  • “You tower above the other men at a massive 5’9”.”
  • “I will never forgive you for judging me solely on my actions.”
  • “Hey, I can go to the bathroom and you can watch me.” “Ah, friends to the end.” “You got that right.”

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