“Out There,” which begins with two episodes on Friday night, carries a double meaning in its title: It takes place out there in the middle of the country (Mr. Quincy is originally from Nebraska), and the people who fill the world of Chad, its mopey 15-year-old protagonist and narrator, are, well, out there.
The show has some of the laconic vibe of Mike Judge’s “King of the Hill” — two of its executive producers also worked on that series — but it’s messier, more intimate and emotional, without Mr. Judge’s polished wryness. Mr. Quincy has mentioned the cult-favorite live-action show “Freaks and Geeks” as a comparison, but there’s a stronger connection to classic American coming-of-age tales like “The Catcher in the Rye.” “Out There” has a bookish feel to it, as if an indie graphic novel had been transferred directly to the screen.
The initial episodes introduce Chad, voiced by Mr. Quincy, and detail how he became best friends with Chris (Justin Roiland), a fellow outcast and rebel who’s a true wild child. In the opener Chad is a reluctant partner in Chris’s plan to run away from home and high school using a balloon made from parts bought at a convenience store.
The small-town anomie and teenage frustration that Mr. Quincy portrays are familiar, but they’re rarely presented this genuinely on TV, without sitcom obviousness or heavy-going satire. The show also looks great, with a hand-drawn quality that’s the opposite of the two-dimensional, primary-color approach of most prime-time animation (including “South Park” and “The Simpsons”). In an eccentric, expressionistic touch, many of the characters are drawn to look like human-animal hybrids — Gary and the other male members of his family look like small rodents, or furry birds.
The success of “Out There” will hinge on Mr. Quincy’s ability to come up with interesting new adventures for Chad, but his acute observation of the milieu bodes well. You know you’re in good hands when Chad, forced to take a job mowing the football field, is momentarily horrified at running over his first snake. Details like that indicate that Mr. Quincy gives good Midwest.
IFC, Friday nights at 10:30, Eastern and Pacific times; 9:30, Central time.
Produced for IFC by 20th Century Fox Television. Created and written by Ryan Quincy; Mr. Quincy, Tony Gama-Lobo and Rebecca May, executive producers.
WITH: Ryan Quincy (voice of Chad), Justin Roiland (Chris), Pamela Adlon (Joanie), Fred Armisen (Terry), Linda Cardellini (Sharla), John DiMaggio (Wayne), Kate Micucci (Jay) and Megan Mullally (Rose).
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Television Review: ‘Out There’ by Ryan Quincy, on IFC
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