I’m a big fan of the British workplace comedy The IT Crowd, starring Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade, Matt Berry, and Katherine Parkinson. They bring a delightful amount of surreal fun to an old concept, thanks to great scripts from creator Graham Linehan. Death Star PR, a spoof web series created by Australian writer Robbie Boland, brings a high concept to the workplace comedy, by placing its aloof team of three inside the Galactic Empire’s weaponized home. It’s a solid premise that is handled well for such a low-budget production, but it suffers from extremely unbalanced humor and acting.
Beginning as a highly popular fictional Twitter feed, Death Star PR failed to reach Boland’s Kickstarter funding goals, but it didn’t stop him from plowing forward and raising the money himself to produce the six episodes that comprise the first, and possibly only, series of the show. It delves into the wacky world of Wilson (Grant Cartwright), Green (Erin-Jean Norvill), and Sharpe, a character played by a different actor in each episode, including John Leary, Travis Cotton, Robin Goldsworthy, Anthony Gooley, Rob Jago, and Suzannah Bayes-Moreton. The type of PR they do is mostly public events, made all the more complicated by their liberal leanings and fear of Darth Vader’s punishments.
The first two episodes have already been released for free, and each successive episode will be released on a weekly basis. Or you can do like I did and pay a measly old dollar for the chance to immediately watch all six episodes on demand. For 17 pennies an episode, you could possible fund a second series of Death Star PR. But how good of an idea is that? Watch the first episode below and form your own biased opinion. Though I think we can all agree that “Alderaan Reasons” is a spectacular pun.
That first episode is definitely the weakest of the bunch, though the second and third episodes are only marginally better. I’m speaking mostly in terms of humor here, since this is a comedy series. The jokes are incredibly corny, and some of the Star Wars references themselves feel shoehorned in just to score cool points.
The last three episodes, though, are more solid, even as Cartwright speaks each line as if he’s in a theatrical play about a mad scientist televangelist. There are still lines that fall flat, of course, but it sets into a rhythm that never feels forced so much as it feels like it lacks the Force.
I can’t really complain about any of the plots or the show’s directing, sets, costumes, or music. Nothing gives off a “low-budget” vibe, and the stories cleverly contain the characters within only a few settings, even adding in offscreen cameos from some of the franchise’s more popular characters.
The highlight for me was the fifth episode, “PR and Prejudice,” which pokes fun at the lack of racial variety aboard the Death Star, and contains my favorite joke of the series. And since it isn’t particularly clever and doesn’t spoil anything, I’ll just print it here.
Wilson – “At least we know there’s one alien working on the Death Star.”
Greene – “There’s two.”
Wilson – “God bless you.”
High brow, low brow, it doesn’t matter. I’ll admit that these kinds of tie-in shows rarely work for me, and often lack the originality that made the source material so easy to parody in the first place. But Death Star PR, despite its faults, still won me over after all was said and done, due to the passion and creativity that got it made. If the show ever does come back, maybe Chad Vader can show up for a guest spot.