Beneath the idiosyncrasies of the animated show “Strange Planet,” originally created by comic artist Nathan W. Pyle, lies a message that Pyle hopes stays with the show’s viewers.
Five episodes of the cartoon comedy are now streaming on Apple TV+. The show, adapted from Pyle’s two books with the help of Dan Harmon and Steve Levy, has covered several characters — called beings — on the planet introduced in the opening sequence and song. Subplots include the dismantling of a rock band, cat-sitting gone awry, a cliffside restaurant named Careful Now that may or may not fall into a bottomless void and more.
“We wanted to find the right balance between anthological, a completely new story every time, and some recurring characters, a world that you’re seeing more than once. I think we succeeded, not perfectly, but I think we succeeded. The hope was defined as well. Reasons and specific ways in which their world is slightly better than our world. They’re slightly more honest beings. They’re slightly more emotionally transparent,” Pyle said. “And that obviously can create these situations where they’re able to talk more frankly about their emotions, especially at the end of the episode, which is one of my favorite parts of the show — the heart. This is what matters so much to me. I want people to take that away. These beings, they may have interesting phrases, but ultimately their heart is what probably will stick with people the most.”
Connected subplots involve similar searches for meaning, such as a romantic connection between a regular at the restaurant Careful Now and the restaurant manager. The restaurant manager becomes a fixture of the show as they shepherd in a new hire to Careful Now, randomly chosen by the wacky owner. One of the most valuable parts of working with Harmon and Levy, for Pyle, involved envisioning the scope of the world.
“For me, their ability to see multiple episodes, not just an idea for one or two, they have ideas for many dozens or hundreds of episodes in their heads at one time. They also specifically pointed out, we like how their conflict arises from honesty. The idea of conflict in most sitcoms is about being dishonest, and then at the end, the characters are honest with each other, they square up,” Pyle said. “So in this case, they said this is gonna be fun, because at the very beginning of an episode, the beings are being honest, but the conflict can arise from that. And that’s really what you see the first episode where, in the very first few minutes, there’s a being who says, ‘I have some news,’ and that’s kind of how it goes, ‘Oh, I have something I need to say.’ ‘We need to work through this the rest of the episode.’”
Five episodes of “Strange Planet” are now streaming on Apple TV+. New episodes arrive weekly on Wednesdays.
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