One And Done: Alabama / U.S.S. Alabama

one and done alabamaA very muscular Thomas Lennon stars in this pilot which also features Rob Huebel, Natasha Leggero, Eddie Izzard and Robert Ben Garant, now of course having that much talent doesn’t always guarantee that a pilot will be successful as the Sarah Silverman, Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn show Super Nerds proved, but in this case it’s a genuinely fantastic watch.

Written by Lennon and his Reno 911! co-star and co-writer Garant, Lennon plays Acting Captain Glen Frenchman who has to try and keep his ship flying through space despite a mixture of idiocy among his crew and alien bastards who want nothing more than to play with human beings as a way to pass the time. In the pilot the two main threats come from the ship’s engineers, the weird arse Rongrons who cut off the oxygen and other important systems until they’re granted shore leave, and from Steve (Eddie Izzard) an overlord from the planet Togon who keeps on kidnapping Frenchman and other crew members and forcing them to face off of each other. The latter’s the kind of plot that Star Trek often used, but that doesn’t stop it from being sent up delightfully here in a selection of very funny ways.

The show has a slightly improvised feel to it from the start as in the opening scene the crew moan about how the due to the lack of water they have to shower together, though it’s quickly explained that “Five to a shower, Earth stays in power” and hey, even if that doesn’t make complete sense without knowing exactly what’s going on in the universe it doesn’t stop the whole sequence from being funny, and it’s a strong start to the show which only gets funnier as it goes along and we get to know these characters better.

After some cool credits which introduce the main characters there’s a bit more moaning, this time about the lack of a new replacement vagina for the sex robot from Frenchman’s crew mate / subordinate Hodge (Alex Fernie), with Frenchman commenting “Just…just rinse her after, is that so hard? It says right across her abdomen”. The show feels quite like “Reno 911! In Space” in these scenes as there’s much bantering between the cast members, though it has a slightly more adult feel to it as well which is matched by some minor nudity, though only of the naked backside / sideboob variety, yet it’s also definitely it’s own beast and the stakes are much higher here.

That becomes apparent when suddenly the systems are turned off by those pesky Rongrons, small puppet looking alien things which seem to make strange noises but also the odd recognisable sound (like the words “Jake Gyllenhaal”), they’re demanding shore leave before they restore power but due to their murderous ways Frenchman isn’t prepared to give in to their demands. Or at least, not yet, but before he can work out what to do Frenchman, Sniper Hughes (Rob Huebel), Mr Magenta (Katie A. Keane) and a couple of others are transported to the Togan home world where Steve toys with them.

The main running gag is that though most of Steve’s challenges are supposed to be psychological our crew are all too happy to turn to violence the first chance they get, and they’re right bastards too, when Steve tells them they have to choose who out of their crew should die it doesn’t take a second for them to decide in a very funny scene that also gives Rob Huebel the chance to show off his impressive physical comedy skills, and Eddie Izzard is given the opportunity to become amusingly frustrated by our “heroes” as well.

In between challenges Steve returns the crew to the ship so we get what feel like short sketches where the various characters interact. That means sex robot L.O.O.-C (Natasha Leggero) is flirted with by Hodge which leads to a rambling conversation about how L.O.O.-C’s glad she doesn’t have a sense of small as “I know they’re bored right now but everyone wants to pee on me”, while Frenchman does his best to seduce Mr Magenta, an alien who looks female but identifies as a man – Frenchman then manages to, but he clearly doesn’t enjoy the sex in the one slightly off joke in the episode which could have done with being cut.

Steve then sets the gang a couple more challenges, one of which involves Frenchman’s Great Grandmother being plucked from her timeline, Frenchman attempts to give a Captain Kirk-esque speech about why humans are so amazing but inevitably violence soon breaks out, but it at least doesn’t take him long to work out how to solve all of his problems and that of the Rongrons too in what’s a seemingly inevitably gore filled finale, but one which is still packed with laugh out loud moments.

I’m fonder of sci-fi comedy than most, but chalk this up as another “What the hell were those network idiots thinking?” when it comes to not giving it a full series. It’s slightly rough around the edges admittedly, and I have to confess that I’m someone who could happily sit there just watching the likes of Lennon, Huebel, Legerro and Izzard chew their finger nails and occasionally stare at the screen before looking down at the floor, but it’s an inventive, smart beast and so why it wasn’t given a full season will confuse me to my dying day.

Perhaps it’s due to the high budget the show might have needed, there’s some semi-decent CGI of the ship flying through space and the cast must have been quite expensive to pay, and given the nature of the show as well as the ship’s various sets there would have been a fair amount of location work (at least if it had followed a similar set up to the pilot), but that still doesn’t really explain it, and I only hope that Lennon and Garant one day return to the idea, and manage to get the same cast on board too.

★★★★

Alex Finch.
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