There’s hardly a better example of just how overwhelming the TV offerings have gotten than “Weird City.” The new slick and bizarre comedy was co-created by Jordan Peele and “Key and Peele” writer Charlie Sanders, features a stacked cast, and is nonetheless stranded on YouTube Premium (though the first two episodes are available to stream for free). It’s the kind of show that could only exist during Peak TV, when the vast array of options can make room for bigger creative swings; it’s also the kind of show that could, regardless of merit, get lost in the shuffle.
But if you do tune into the six episodes that dropped on Feb. 13, “Weird City” quickly proves itself to be an interesting experiment, at the very least. It takes place in a sci-fi world wherein the “Haves” and “Have Nots” are divided into starkly segregated communities by a literal line; citizens either live Above the Line or Below the Line, with all the culture shock and friction that strict delineation implies. (The production design of Above the Line’s Jetson-esque sleekness versus Below the Line’s rougher edges has to do a lot of work here, and thankfully, it does.)
Each episode focuses on a different story, though some characters — like LeVar Burton’s mysterious mad scientist, who may or may not be pulling all the strings — pop up throughout. This “one and done” format makes it easier for “Weird City” to enlist bigger names that might not have otherwise had the time to spend a whole season Above or Below the Line, including Dylan O’Brien, Rosario Dawson, Ed O’Neill, and Awkwafina.
The anthology style also means that the show’s success is more hit or miss depending on the episode. O’Brien and Neill, for instance, star in the premiere (“The One”) as two unlikely soulmates who find themselves torn by Weird City’s strictly scientific matchmaking policies. As is fitting for the concept, the two have surprisingly good chemistry, though it sometimes feels the script is making the fact of their attraction the joke. But once it hits its more earnest stride, “The One” hits a simultaneously strange and tender groove that suits “Weird City” well. But then there’s the next episode (“A Family”), which features Michael Cera as an unpleasant outcast who quite literally muscles his way into a Crossfit-style gym (much to the displeasure of the resident trainer, played by Dawson). This chapter is purposefully awkward, but the balance tips too far into a cringe-inducing nightmare.
But again: the beauty of an anthology format is that if one episode doesn’t strike your fancy, the next just might, and “Weird City’s” writing is sharp and self-aware enough (and its casting exciting enough) to at least give it a shot.
Comedy, 30 mins. Premiered February 13 on YouTube Premium.
Crew: Executive producers: Adam Bernstein, Keith Raskin, Linda Morel, Sam Hansen, Jimmy Miller, Tom Lesinski, Jenna Santoianni, Win Rosenfeld, Jordan Peele, Jose Molina, Charlie Sanders