Out of this world comedy: Aspiring astronauts shoot for 'Moonbase 8'

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Kyla Brewer / TV Media
John C. Reilly, Tim Heidecker and Fred Armisen star in "Moonbase 8"

John C. Reilly, Tim Heidecker and Fred Armisen star in "Moonbase 8"

Imagine being isolated with little contact with the outside world and longing to go someplace far, far away. With everything going on in the world today, surely a lot of people can relate to such a premise, and a new comedy that takes a look at the lighter side of astronaut life might be just what the doctor ordered.

John C. Reilly ("Step Brothers," 2008) stars as Cap, the leader of a group of astronauts living at a NASA moon base simulator in "Moonbase 8," premiering Sunday, Nov. 8, on Showtime. His underlings include Fred Armisen ("Portlandia") as Skip and Tim Heidecker ("Tim and Eric's Bedtime Stories") as Rook, fellow incompetent astronauts desperate to qualify for a lunar mission.

The six-episode, half-hour comedy series was created by Reilly, Armisen and Heidecker along with John Krisel ("Baskets"), who serves as the show's director. All four men are also credited as writers of "Moonbase 8," and they are all executive producers with Dave Kneebone ("The Eric Andre Show"). It's been produced by A24 and Abso Lutely Productions.

While the notion of astronauts living essentially "quarantined" from the outside world might seem a bit apropos at the moment, the comedy has actually been in the works since 2018 and was relatively recently picked up by Showtime.

"In a year when we have all been forced to come to terms with life in close quarters, we are happy to have landed this offbeat take on life in captivity with dreams of escaping to something grander," Showtime executive Jana Winograde said in an official news release when it was picked up in August. "While the show was produced before the pandemic, its subject matter is timely – and, thanks to Fred, Tim, John and Jonathan, its humor is timeless."

The series is set in a remote area in the desert near Winslow, Arizona, where harsh conditions mimic some of the challenges the would-be astronauts might face in space. They diligently attempt to carry out their training, despite obvious ineptitude. Each of the eager, aspiring astronauts has his own reasons for wanting to get to the moon. In the trailer for the series, Cap explains that he's screwed up his entire life, but if he gets to the moon, he'll finally be considered a hero. Skip wants to carry on the legacy of his famous astronaut father, and Rook hopes to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ in space. However, when they run into trouble while trying to complete their training, they begin to question their sanity, their faith in each other and whether they really are capable of carrying out a mission to the moon.

It seems as if that's a lot to unpack in a measly six episodes but, if anyone can do it, it's Armisen, Reilly, Heidecker and Krisel. With years of experience in television and film, they have proven track records when it comes to comedy.

Tim Heidecker, Fred Armisen and John C. Reilly in "Moonbase 8"

Tim Heidecker, Fred Armisen and John C. Reilly in "Moonbase 8"

Armisen hails from the hallowed halls of Studio 8H, where legendary sketch comedy series "Saturday Night Live" has been filmed since its debut in 1975. He was a member of the "SNL" cast from 2002 to 2013, becoming known for his impressions of notable figures such as Barack Obama, Prince, Steve Jobs and Michael Bloomberg. He went on to co-create the comedy series "Portlandia" with Krisel and Carrie Brownstein ("Transparent"). The show has won four Emmys and a Peabody Award.

Multi-faceted performer Reilly actually made a name for himself in dramas such as "Casualties of War" (1989), "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993) and "The River Wild" (1994) before wowing audiences with his performance in the musical "Chicago" (2002), earning an Academy Award nomination in the process. He's also proven himself in comedy circles with his work in "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" (2007), "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" (2006) and "Step Brothers" (2008). More recently, he earned a Golden Globe nomination for his role as comedian Oliver Hardy in the 2018 film "Stan and Ollie."

Heidecker is actually best known as one half of the comedy duo Tim & Eric, alongside Eric Wareheim ("Beef House"). He first gained fame for creating and starring in the Adult Swim animated series "Tom Goes to the Mayor" and built on that success in the comedy series "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!" He's known for "Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" (2012), "Bridesmaids" (2011) and "Beef House," as well as the web series and podcast "On Cinema."

Krisel, meanwhile, ties many of these shows together as a frequent collaborator with Tim & Eric, a former writer and director for "Portlandia" and having worked on a number of "Saturday Night Live" digital shorts. He also co-created the FX series "Baskets," for which he serves as an executive producer and primary director.

Obviously, the creators have put their hearts and souls into "Moonbase 8." They produced it all without knowing how or whether it would even get to audiences. "Moonbase 8" was independently financed and not shopped around to networks until all six episodes were complete. However, given the track records of the team behind it, it's no surprise it's been snapped up. It might just be the kind of silly humor people need right now. If you've been cooped up for too long and need a good chuckle, check out "Moonbase 8," premiering Sunday, Nov. 8, on Showtime.