Cartoonist Nathan W. Pyle's beloved alien webcomic series about extraterrestrials commenting on the eccentricities of daily human life has been adapted into an animated series on Apple TV+. Titled Strange Planet, the new show pairs Pyle with veteran television and animation writer/producer Dan Harmon to bring Pyle's work into a fresh medium while retaining much of its original charm. Unfolding in an anthology-style series, Strange Planet will likely delight any fans of the webcomic though the joke may take some getting used to for the uninitiated.
Exploring everything from commercial airline service and musical festivals to soccer games and taking care of pets, Strange Planet follows a wide range of topics across its inaugural season. The extraterrestrials, referring to themselves as "beings," comment on the everyday absurdities of human life with their unique perspective, including vocational upgrades (promotions) and cocoa bars (chocolate). Of course, these beings aren't completely emotionless themselves, but how they rationalize and react to them carries their own amusing foibles compared to how humans process the same feelings.
Strange Planet boasts an impressive voice cast led by Tunde Adebimpe, Demi Adejuyigbe, Lori Tan Chinn, and Danny Pudi. With each of its ensemble coming from a notable comedic background, they know how to play deadpan for some of the series' more observational humor and when to dial up the energy in the face of cartoonish chaos. The cast fully understands the assignment, takes the material they're given, and runs with it to great effect in each of these unassuming scenarios.
The series wisely retains and subtly enhances Pyle's art style with its muted blue, lightbulb-shaped beings with expressive eyes and gangly limbs. There are immersive moments in each episode, including the perspective following a character through a busy restaurant to a playful spelunking session that keeps the audience's attention. There is plenty of substance beyond the premise, with Strange Planet expanding upon Pyle's webcomic source material while giving the show its own sense of personality that won't alienate longtime fans.
It's when Strange Planet deviates from Pyle's webcomic the most that the show is relatively hit or miss, with some creative swings connecting and others, like extended musical sequences, not quite hitting the mark. One deviation that consistently works is the emotions displayed by the beings. There is a tricky balance between managing the spirit of the webcomic and forging new ground to make a show out of it, and more often than not, Strange Planet pulls off that balancing act.
At first glance, Strange Planet might not seem like it has enough material to fill an entire animated series, but the team provides plenty of charm to the characters and various vignettes so that the show doesn't feel like a prolonged one-note joke. Adorably animated and shining a hilarious light on the banalities of existence, Strange Planet is heartfelt and funny, though it does have visible room to grow and find its voice. Those unfamiliar with Pyle's work might take a bit longer to warm up to the show, but its relatable humor will win them over if they give it a chance.
Created by Nathan W. Pyle and Dan Harmon, Strange Planet premieres its first three episodes on Aug. 9 on Apple TV+, with new episodes released Wednesdays.