Happy 4-20?!? Perhaps not coincidentally at all, Warner Bros. Discovery picked this date to launch a series called High Science from Funny or Die that appears on both of its streaming subscription platforms: HBO Max and discovery+. It stars a robotic bong (voiced by one of the Avengers, Paul Bettany) educating two stoner lab assistants, played by Funny Or Die’s Matt Klinman and Zack Poitras. All five episodes are available to stream now, with two episodes airing weekly on regular cable TV beginning April 26 on Discovery Channel.
FUNNY OR DIE’S HIGH SCIENCE: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: A talking robot in the shape of a hookah machine appears floating in the foreground, with our moon in the background, as Bettany says: “Ah, the moon. We have been looking up at the sky for thousands of years. Then we started going to the moon. And then, we stopped.”
The Gist: We cut to Klinman and Poitras, supposedly in the middle of training in their seemingly futile hopes to join NASA’s Artemis project missions to return to the moon later in this decade. The robot quickly becomes their sidekick. We then watch the credits for more information about the show.
Bettany’s robotic origin story here concerns a secret government project from 1964 called D.R.O.H. (Device for Research of Oneirophrenic Hallucination), studying that weird scientific state where you cannot distinguish between dreams and reality. That’ll come in pretty handy when Dr. Oh (get it) is re-discovered almost six decades later by two undistinguished lab assistants.
The pilot episode transports these two dopes into lunar orbit; more precisely, Lagrange Points, which we learn are positions in space where you can seemingly stay still thanks to the equal and opposing gravitational pulls between two other celestial bodies, such as the Sun and the Earth, where the James Webb telescope currently sits. To explain why Earth even has a moon, Dr. OH trots out a few theories, then beams in Dr. Melanie Barboni, a geochemist at Arizona State University, to tell us more about the prevailing wisdom of the Giant Impact Theory. When Zack and Matt see the animated re-enactment of a planetoid smashing into Earth, they ask for multiple instant replays with all sorts of effects added. They then hop aboard LCROSS, the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (which will take them to Artemis’ planned base at the South Pole of Moon). Never mind the fact that Matt and Zack shouldn’t be alive without astronaut suits on. Why not focus instead on Zack discovering Neil Armstrong’s bag filled with space poop. That conveniently disproves his conspiracy theories about the moon landings. Also, they discover lava tube. “Lava tubes…on the moon?? ?” Indeed. Matt is thrown into a spin about his get-rich scheme where he will become Moon CEO with the help of Lunr, a ride-sharing application. Dr. Jacob Haqq-Misra, an astrobiologist at Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, doesn’t necessarily dissuade Matt, because commercializing the moon might be at least better than militarizing it?
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? As a comedy show that’s essentially science for dummies, it could be a next-generation version of Bill Nye the Science Guy, but it’s also definitely under the influence of Bill and Ted, if they were stoner Millennials.
Our Take: The two human stars of this series actually have a long history with Funny or Die.
Back in 2017, when Funny or Die launched an app called PITCH (imagine if the comedy game show @Midnight were running all the time, and everyone could compete with their joke answers to premises), Klinman was the app’s creator, and Poitras served then as the website’s head writer. This was back when Funny or Die was still producing viral videos and other content. Poitras also previously wrote for both The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Kids Tonight Show, and also worked on FoD’s HBO special, The Royal Wedding Live! with Cord and Tish.
In their first starring turns in front of the camera, the duo prove themselves to be quite affable without overstaying their welcome onscreen, and deferring easily and readily to the robot, who, as voiced by Bettany, brings the necessary gravitas and focus to each episode.
And the episode zips by breezily. You never feel like you are being lectured, and the facts don’t come so quickly that you forget them as soon as the episode is over. I’ll certainly remember where to find the James Webb telescope now, even if I may never get to be an astronaut myself.
The other episodes in the season go back in time to when six different species of humans existed at the same time (“Human Kind Bud”), learn about the underworld of trees (“The Dank Web of Trees”), debate whether the Egyptians could’ve built the pyramids without alien assistance (“Aliens of Antiquity), and get zapped into a video game to learn more about anti-aging exploration (“Unlimited Life”).
Sex and Skin: It’s weird and it’s science, but it’s no Weird Science.
Parting Shot: Dr. Oh winks at the camera after pulling a prank on the boys.
Sleeper Star: Not really one in the pilot episode, unless you count making the most famous person in the show the voice of a robot.
Most Pilot-y Line: At the end of the opening credits sequence, when Dr. Oh proclaims: “If i can impart the secrets of the universe to these two, surely I can do it to you…on High Science.”
Our Call: STREAM IT. You don’t have to be stoned, or under the influence of any substance, to absorb these light-hearted but decidedly educational messages about science.
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The Comic’s Comic; before that, for actual newspapers. He is based in NYC, but travels anywhere to get the scoop on ice cream or breaking news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.
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