Strange Planet is perhaps about the most universally relatable piece of content yet to be released to a Western audience. It is built with that particular intention: every element is expressly designed to resonate with human behaviours, however sensical or nonsensical they may be.
A near-direct lift from American author and illustrator Nathan Pyle’s comic strips of the same name, this series, from Rick and Morty’s creator Dan Harmon, consists of pithy standalone 20-minute episodes. Adult cartoons (though this is largely family friendly in terms of content, a lot of references might whizz over the head of a younger viewer) are of course increasingly prevalent nowadays, and are an ideal medium for this sort of project. There are no stunning – or even particularly engaging – visuals on show here, but each little story has its own charm, focusing on and parodying different curious human and societal behaviours. All manner of things are rephrased as entirely literal alternatives (tanning becomes “damage from our nearest star”, birthday is “emergence day”), and this is primarily where the humour and entertainment value lies.
The characters, as in the comic strips, are nondescript, blue and largely ungendered beings (some visual stereotypes, but they/them pronouns all round) – essentially a blank vessel for the parody of human activity. They tend to be archetypes of the distinctive characters encountered both in life and (in exaggerated form) in film and TV. This works very effectively for its purpose, but it does make for a slightly bland aesthetic experience.
Strange Planet is an eminently watchable series: essentially light television and without a linear overarching narrative that needs to be clung to, it presents as an extremely gentle, subtly amusing and overtly intriguing mockery of the so very familiar human experience.
Strange Planet is released on Apple TV+ on 9th August 2023.
Watch the trailer for Strange Planet here: