By Sumayah Medlin
The new science-fiction comedy series, “Weird City,” premiered on Feb. 13 on YouTube Red, with the first two of six episodes free without a subscription.
The show was created by Charlie Sanders and Oscar-winner Jordan Peele, who first received recognition for his “Key & Peele” comedy skits, which are reflected in the show’s humor.
The series is an anthology, as each episode has its own plot, but the show’s setting — the city of Weird — is a fixed element that frames the plot of each episode.
The first episode, “The One,” stars Dylan O’Brien of “Teen Wolf” and the “Maze Runner” series, along with Ed O’Neill of “Modern Family.”
In the episode, O’Brien’s character, Stu Maxsome, is a new resident of an area of Weird known as The Haves, having previously lived on the opposite side of the literal line that divides the city, in The Have-Nots. The Have-Nots closely resembles our society, but with a few futuristic elements, such as levitating food carts. The Haves is much more imaginative, with apps that exist inside your head, as well as a matchmaking system called The One That’s The One that forcibly assigns every resident a soulmate at birth. This dating system is the basis of the first episode.
Stu, having been born in the Have-Nots, was not assigned a soulmate at birth and he has to date around instead. He answers a questionnaire that resembles those random Buzzfeed quizzes. The answers determine who his perfect match is. To his surprise, he is paired with O’Neill’s character, Burt. The match is strange, considering the 45-year age difference between the two and also the fact that both are seemingly heterosexual.
I have to admit at first I could not get past the age gap. Before the official release, I had just realized that I might have to see a 27-year-old O’Brien kiss a 72-year-old man. And lo and behold, nearing the end of the episode, I did. I cannot say that I completely got over the age difference, but the gap is part of the humor of the pairing.
One scene, in which Stu is consoling the adult but childlike son of Burt, is clearly meant to evoke laughter of its audience. The faux serious tone of such a ridiculous scene was a happy reminder that this was from the mind of Peele.
Though the age gap in “The One” is somewhat alarming, it is a factor that accounts for the intentional weirdness of the match. Two similarly aged people getting paired is not as strange as two characters from different generations.
What I like so much about the first episode is that there’s a large focus on the society itself. The city is more weird than the characters. It’s strange that this flawless system paired two straight guys together.
In the second episode, the weirdness of the city gets overshadowed by how bizarre the main character is.
Michael Cera and Rosario Dawson star in the second episode, “A Family,” as Tawny and Delt respectively. Tawny is an odd guy who pretends to be an addict so that he can be a part of a community. He’s strangely obsessed with these worms that seem to give him powers, and eventually he ends up replacing Delt, as the lead instructor at a gym. He gives so much money to the gym in subscription fees that Delt’s coworker excuses him for being really annoying to other customers.
For a show supposedly focused on the strangeness of a society, I think showing the disparities between The Haves and The Have-Nots is most effective. The weirdness of Tawny was a bit of a turnoff, and was not appealing enough to me to make me want to pay to watch the remaining four episodes. His character was a distraction from the larger, more interesting overall plot.
Woven in are some undeniable elements of the overall society, such as the chip in Tawny’s wrists that allows for him to easily “max out,” which is code for the gym ripping him off. However, the strangeness of that is easily overruled by how odd Tawny is. Tawny is weird, and not in a way that is explained by him growing up in The Haves. Compared with the other residents, I’d say he’s too weird.
While “Weird City” is intriguing, it may be a bit too bizarre for some people to venture over the line for.