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Dan Harmon’s new animated series turns a hit webcomic into a gentle Rick and Morty

Strange Planet premieres Aug. 9

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Tasha Robinson leads Polygon’s movie coverage. She’s covered film, TV, books, and more for 20 years, including at The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, and The Verge.

Even if you aren’t already a fan of Strange Planet, Nathan Pyle’s charmingly subversive webcomic where blobby blue aliens circumlocute around common human objects and experiences, you may still recognize them when you see them. Pyle’s strips — typically four panels of low-key observational humor, rendered in soft pinks and blues — are all over social media and the internet, with multiple book collections and plenty of associated merchandise. Because each strip stands alone, they’ve attained a viral pass-around state, where they’re constantly being rediscovered and reposted in every possible forum. Now, Pyle has teamed up with Community creator / Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon to turn the strip into an animated TV series, and the first trailer has arrived.

Strange Planet the strip doesn’t really have running characters, as far as anyone but Pyle knows — the blue aliens, or “beings,” almost all look alike, and they all talk alike, with a kind of gentle, self-effacing, philosophical acceptance about the oddities of things like coffee (“jitter liquid”), alcohol (“mild poison”), and fast food. The animated series, to judge from the early episodes provided for critics, is similarly an anthology show, with a few running characters, but mostly a story that moves from place to place, tracking different sets of characters in different professions and at different points in their lives.

The show preserves Pyle’s art style and humor, to the point where a lot of the language will be familiar to fans of his strips — but it’s unquestionably a Dan Harmon series as well, with Harmon’s signature humanistic take on failure and regret, family connections and philosophy, learning and growing. The story arcs could be Rick and Morty arcs, except without the gross-out humor, frantic tone, and overall air of aggressive cynicism. In the same way, they’re about characters facing and overcoming anxieties and dealing with their own shortcomings. Just as the Strange Planet strip offers a twisted mirror of our world, the series offers a twisted mirror of Rick and Morty — a version of that animated series made for a much calmer, quieter audience.

The series features voices by Tunde Adebimpe, Demi Adejuyigbe, Lori Tan Chinn, Community’s Danny Pudi, and Hannah Einbinder.

Strange Planet premieres Aug. 9 on Apple TV Plus, with a 10-episode first season.

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