John C. Reilly (left) and Tim Heidecker star in ‘Moonbase 8’
John C. Reilly (left) and Tim Heidecker star in ‘Moonbase 8’ © Courtesy of A24 Films/SHOWTIME

As a space drama, Moonbase 8 doesn’t even get off the ground — but that’s only because the setting is a simulation base in Arizona. The four would-be astronauts preparing for possible inclusion in a forthcoming Moon launch get in the spirit by donning full space kit including helmet and pretending to use an airlock whenever they go outside. The scenario may remind you of Netflix’s Space Force, also set on a desert base, but that had a budget that was visible from the Moon. This is so small-scale it would probably work just as well on stage. 

The team on Moonbase 8 have completed 200 days in isolation, and morale is starting to fray. Nominally in charge is the irascible Cap (John C Reilly). Fred Armisen reliably hits that sweet spot in a character where risible meets adorable; here he’s emotionless Skip, team doctor and scientific whizz from MIT, stuck in the shadow of his eminent rocket scientist father. Mild-mannered Rook (Tim Heidecker) misses his wife and 12 children, but believes going to the Moon will mean “sharing God’s message with the universe”. The pastor who thus exhorted him may have had ulterior motives. 

The fourth member of the team is professional football player Travis Kelce: “Nasa just wants him for the PR.” It wouldn’t be true to say he doesn’t know his own strength: Kelce could put someone’s eye out just by stretching. His self-assertion is playing havoc with the hierarchy; he regularly orders Cap to clean “my rover”. “It’s our rover,” Cap meekly corrects. “WHAT?” Kelce roars back. Despite Kelce’s requirements for constant hydration and frequent showers, no one can work out why the water supply has run out. Travis Kelce, an actual footballer, is billed as playing himself, so he can certainly take a joke. 

Many are the things they discover about each other, such as that none of them actually know what Nasa stands for: National . . .? Astronauts . . .? “I don’t think it stands for anything. It’s just a word,” Skip volunteers. Rook’s background involved selling merch for a rock band and he thinks one of the commandments is “Do not trespass against thou spouse.” Cap is forever fretting over the loss of his Hawaiian helicopter tour business over tax issues: “I got the city of Honolulu up my ass!” 

The pretence that they are actually on the Moon becomes less and less viable with the incursion of an elusive night-time dustbin raider who leaves behind bicycle tyre tracks. The faffing trio can’t get outside quickly enough to catch him: “The suit-up time is killing us!” No wonder the National Astronauts Whatever thinks it’s high time to stage an intervention.

★★★☆☆

On Sky Comedy on December 21 at 9pm

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