Since the 1960s, astronauts have always topped the list of the most respected people. The reasons are obvious: their spirit of exploration and their call to serve. Neither are much in evidence anywhere in this new workplace sitcom. That wouldn’t be so bad, if it were funny, but it isn’t. Anyone who still has good feelings for NASA and the space program should take a hard pass on Moonbase 8, created by the small caucus of Fred Armisen, Tim Heidecker, Jonathan Krisel & John C. Reilly, which premieres this Sunday on Showtime.
Captain Robert “Cap” Caputo, Dr. Michael “Skip” Henai, a Prof. Scott “Rook” Sloan, (played by co-creators Reilly, Armisen, and Heidecker, respectively) and a rotating guest fourth crew-member are prospective astronauts for a future Moon colony. Moonbase 8 is sort of a Big Brother-style audition, but with more science experiments. None of the three regulars inspires much confidence, except maybe Henai, who is technically solid and has the advantage of being the son of a revered Apollo-era scientist.
In contrast, Cap Caputo is a former helicopter pilot, whose Hawaiian tour company went belly-up, whereas Rook is an Evangelical, who signed up for the tryout mission, because his pastor convinced him it would be an excellent way to spread the Gospel. Each episode, they face a crisis they must scramble to fix, manage, and generally cover-up, without NASA knowing, to keep their Moon dreams alive.
Moonbase 8 is based on social awkwardness or comes at the expense of Rook’s Christian faith. Ha ha ha, he has twelve kids. Get it? No birth control. Frankly, it is hard to think of a more mean-spirited sitcom than Moonbase 8. For what its worth, Adam Lambert and Alia Shawkat come off as convincing jerkweeds in their guest appearances as hipster SpaceX astronauts. However, it is nice Fred Grandy (formerly an excellent Congressman, but probably still best known as Gopher on The Love Boat) pop-up as a hippy-dippy RV tourist in the “Quarantine” episode.
Proxima is not an entirely perfect film, but it does a nice job of humanizing astronauts and exploring the drama of their everyday lives. Moonbase 8 just reduces them to stereotypes. Yet, the fundamental problem with the show is the fact that it just isn’t funny. Honestly, getting through all six episodes was just a chore. Not recommended, Moonbase 8 premieres this Sunday (11/8) on Showtime.