I’ll readily admit that I was a fair bit apprehensive to check out this show. A lot of this had to do with the prejudices I was placing on the series due to it being a spinoff of a recurring segment from TripTank. The idea is also not the most original premise that I’ve ever come across either. I mean, is there anything really new to say about aliens at this point?
Yes. Yes, there is. And sometimes you just have to tell your brain to shut up because Jeff & Some Aliens is such delightful chaos.
I’m actually upset that I nearly prevented myself from checking this one out due to thinking that I knew what I’d be getting here. Not only does this show feel exciting and original, but it’s slam dunk success could potentially lead to more fledgling TripTank sketches from the animated series being expanded into full-on television shows. As a guinea pig though, Jeff & Some Aliens sets the bar at a remarkably high level.
The series immediately throws you into Jeff’s messed up world. As television viewers, we have become so sophisticated that we don’t need some mechanical pilot episode where Jeff’s “origin story” takes place (although there is a catchy theme song that gets the job done). That time wisely goes to elaborate, ridiculous jokes that are much more effective at illustrating the tone and pace of this aggressively funny series. Jokes come hard, fast, and go on beautiful tangents, all of which contribute to the expansive world that creators Sean Donnelly and Alessandro Minoli have created.
Each episode sees Jeff having to acclimate to some overbearing alien custom as real life simultaneously kicks him in the ass. There are plenty of shows, many of which have also lived on Comedy Central, like Ugly Americans or even Futurama to some degree, that explore this sort of extreme fish out of water paradigm. Jeff & Some Aliens actually manages to make itself stand out amongst the litter by having much more of an Adult Swim mentality in place. Things get pushed very far and go to incredibly dark, upsetting places, much like in the TripTank shorts that inspired the series.
It’s almost too much at times to see the gauntlet that the hapless Jeff has to go through every week. I genuinely feel bad for the guy. That being said, every time he experiences some colossal extraterrestrial misunderstanding, I’d laugh out loud. You can see the weight of several worlds weighing down on him collectively with each passing episode where you even wonder if he’ll be able to endure an entire season of intergalactic mix-ups.
This is also a show that is dangerously violent and chaotic to a Superjail-like degree. Murder happens so casually here that you’d forget it was a major crime. There are also some teen pop idol aping songs in the show’s third episode that I’m honestly shocked made it through. It’s nice to see a show where nothing is being held back and yet it manages to make this envelope pushing feel organic rather than gratuitous.
Brett Gelman provides the voice of the titular Jeff and he does an exceptional job in the role. He’s the perfect choice for that sort of ping-ponging personality of dour and explosive that composes Jeff. He really works as the straight man as the trio of aliens run circles around him.
It’s also nice to see everyday topics like Jeff’s job, romantic endeavors, and things as simple as money woes juxtaposing with the aliens’ hyperbolized take on everything, including their solutions to Jeff’s problems.
This might reek of being formulaic at times, but the aliens’ outlandish answers are genuinely hard to predict, and this paired with Gelman’s performance as he scrambles to stay afloat is oddly soothing. It’s just formulaic enough while still being hard to totally nail down. Elements like lengthy flashbacks or extravagant detours in storytelling are turned to as the show sees fit, often to service some sort of dark piece of humor. Those moments where the show’s voice continues to refine itself are usually risks that happen to pay off. However, I’m the sort of person that’s all about going on a ridiculous tangent just to make something a little more disturbing. But it also happens to function as a nice way of fleshing out tertiary characters while making it feel like every event in this show has consequences. Something like that can be crucial in a vehicle where it can sometimes feel like there are no rules.
Stories also escalate at an impressive rate with each episode fitting a surprising amount into each installment. Every time an episode reaches a plot point that feels like it should be the resolution of things, Jeff & Some Aliens instead subverts it into merely the mid-way point, fitting many more developments into this blender of madness in the process. It’s another smart tactic that helps this show stand out amongst the wealth of similar edgy programming that’s out there. In the same way that Futurama and Rick and Morty use science as a means of resolving plot points in some rather brilliant synergy, Jeff & Some Aliens always confidently doubles down on the alien technology that it introduces. Often the original premise is being re-used in some unexpected, clever way that ends up leading to success in some inspired fashion.
In addition to the crazier topics that the series will indulge in, the show also isn’t afraid to explore more cerebral, deeper territory. Topics like the inevitability of life, following your dreams, and accepting what you’ve been dealt all rear their heads in heavy ways. They’re certainly welcome contrasts to the more absurd visual material. When the series attempts something of a deeper significance like this, it all culminates in the show feeling rather complete.
To dig into the series’ aesthetics a little, the animation style might feel a little awkward or janky at first, but I was very quickly getting behind its almost muted color palette. It might be an acquired taste, but it’s a look that is fitting to the dreary life that Jeff leads. Comedy Central has certainly put less polished looking vehicles on the air. The animation is hardly a drawback for the show, it’s just not going to outshine the show’s writing in my opinion.
Jeff & Some Aliens is a refreshing adrenaline rush of an animated series that looks at an ordinary man being pushed to extraordinary limits in some of the most hilarious methods imaginable. With a strong voice present and a confident creative staff in place, Jeff & Some Aliens won’t only successfully fill the animated void in your life now that South Park’s season is over, but it’ll also become one of your newest obsessions on the network.
This review is based on the first three half-hour episodes of Jeff & Some Aliens
Jeff & Some Aliens premieres January 11th at 10:30pm on Comedy Central.