Out There chronicles the misadventures of socially awkward Chad, his little brother Jay and his best friend, Chris. Living in the small town of Holford, the boys wander its surreal, bleak landscape waiting out their last few years of adolescence. Along the way, viewers meet Chad’s conservative parents, Wayne and Rose, as well as Chris’ single mother, Joanie and her disastrous boyfriend, Terry. They also meet the object of Chad’s affection, Sharla. Out There premiered on IFC on February 22, 2013.
My Two Cents
On the surface, Out There seems to follow a common template for recently primetime animated series that have faded away, like Napoleon Dynamite and Unsupervised. Here is another cartoon about misfit teenage boys, living in middle to lower class America.
However, once Out There starts rolling along, I find myself paying close attention to the characters and the dialogue. These boys aren't typical, mouthy characters looking for laughs. Chris and Chad, the lead characters and best friends, are thoughtful and thought-provoking. I became curious about their relationship, because they seem to have nothing in common. Yet, they are close and protect each other from the ills of the high school pecking order.
Out There simultaneously winks at the audience while flipping stereotypes upside down. The high school bully turns out to be sensitive about his looks, while the cool kid in Sharla's group actually wears a t-shirt that says, "cool." Plus, look for iconic images in the posters in Chris's room.
As creator Ryan Quincy explained in his interview, he was interested in exploring the relationship of best friends in high school, because that's your first experience in trying to keep a successful relationship going.
And don't waste time trying to figure out what kind of animals the characters are. Quincy also explained that he was influenced by Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak. His characters aren't meant to be anything but themselves, which allows for us to pay more attention to the story.
Out There is also refreshingly free from pop culture references, snarky banter and a break-neck comedy speed. In a world where Family Guy and The Simpsons top the ratings chart every week, cartoons that don't provide a laugh a minute are hard to find. But as Quincy says, Out There is a slow burn. That slow burn allows for deeper storytelling, much more akin to King of the Hill.
Out There's cast is top-notch, providing grounded performances for these animalistic characters. Quincy voices Chad, the lead character, with a deep, deadpan voice that perfectly suits the shy and pensive Chad. John DiMaggio gives a surprising performance. After seeing his name on the cast list as Wayne, Chad's father, I was waiting to hear the gruff, loud voice of Bender (Futurama) or Jake (Adventure Time). But his portrayal is quiet and vulnerable, with the perfect tone for the setting.
Out There won't be for everybody, one of the reasons the cartoon is airing on IFC, which tends to draw a more sophisticated crowd of viewers. But for those us who are looking for relatable, touching stories told in a charming, funny way, Out There is here for you.
- Pamela Adlon (Louie, King of the Hill) as Chris' mother, Joanie
- Fred Armisen (Portlandia, SNL) as Joanie's boyfriend, Terry
- Linda Cardellini (ER, Freaks and Geeks) as Sharla
- John DiMaggio (Futurama, Adventure Time) as Chad's father, Wayne
- Kate Micucci (Raising Hope, Bored to Death) as Chad's little brother, Jay
- Megan Mullally (Children's Hospital, Party Down) as Chad's mother, Rose
- Justin Roiland (Fish Hooks, Adventure Time) as Chris
- Ryan Quincy, series creator, as Chad
All the cool kids are hanging Out There. Upcoming guest stars include:
Selma Blair (Anger Management, Hellboy), Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Ellen Page (Juno, Inception), Stephen Root (King of the Hill, Office Space), Jason Schwartzman (Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Express), Sarah Silverman (Wreck It Ralph, The Sarah Silverman Program) and Christian Slater (Breaking In, Robot Chicken).