I see what they were going for, as I usually do, but (and, as usual), CBS just doesn’t seem to get why stuff works. In Star Trek, there is a built-in conceit that ships are named in a grand manner… the Exeter, the Rio Grande, the Grissom.

Cerritos is a suburb of Los Angeles. It was called “Dairy Valley” when it was incorporated, and if you wanted to use Cerritos as just an in-joke for you and your writer friends in the writers room, you should have named the ship that. The USS Dairy Valley is hilarious and you don’t need any knowledge about a small town in LA no one out of Southern California has ever heard of to find it funny. “Cerritos” means “little hills” in Spanish, which again is ironic as there are no hills, little or big, in Cerritos. But you would need to know that to get why that might be a comedy name for a starship, featuring something that isn’t there.
I think what they were going for was what Johnny Carson used to do on The Tonight Show, saying they were coming to you from “beautiful downtown Burbank” which, if you knew Burbank, was hilarious, and if you didn’t, still evoked the magic of Tinseltown. It was an empty-vessel coinage that began to mean something profound in the comedy landscape. Why not hook your wagon to a comedy legend who has already done the work for you?
Except “Cerritos” doesn’t do it. It’s kind of a plastic, West Coast version of Stepford, Connecticut with its good schools and health clubs and its spectacular weather and hoppin’ nightlife, and… its high crime rate and subpar cost of living and shitty housing, job market, and commute.
Basically, you gain nothing of its advantages for naming the ship that because it’s just another faceless suburb nobody has ever heard of, and you get nothing but disadvantages because the audience has nothing to associate it with. It sounds like some kind of mass-market corn chip. So there’s no comedy there other than the obvious in-joke somebody is making to make their friends laugh that has no meaning to the audience.
USS Burbank does the same thing and gives people outside of metro LA a chance to get in on your joke. I mean, I don’t get the feeling that these guys are thinking about why things are funny, much less how to bring yuks to the Star Trek format in particular.
The only way to skewer sacred cows successfully is to KNOW WHAT MAKES THEM SACRED.
The old skool Trek fans will hate their religion being crapped on and any new fans you will pick up will be stoned Herberts who think this is a weird new season of Rick and Morty.
…which is what I wrote a few days ago, getting ready for the premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks and writing what I thought I would think about the first episode. Turns out when I watched it, every single fear I had last week was addressed and answered in a tight little twenty-two minutes. Every criticism was anticipated and dealt with, the first, of course being the Kurtzman regime has no idea how to do Star Trek correctly. Turns out that was easily addressed as Mike McMahon’s solution was to just do Star Trek and turn the hijinks up to eleven. Eleven past The Orville, that is.
Anyway, they saved a lot of Basil Exposition by only having to explain the characters and not the setting and situations. Here ya go, it’s Star Trek. It’s just dopey.
I hate cartoons, and I hate when people make fun of stuff I consider sacred, like my Trekkie religion. I watched a season of Venture Brothers and I hated it because I love Johnny Quest. I’m too old for Rick and Morty, but my kid loves it. This show gets it. I wanted to hate it but it’s Star Trek, just with a giant dose of Ren and Stimpy. Lower Decks is that “just right” porridge. Lots of in-universe references that nod to the massive world-building of the ST legacy without being stupidly overt like Gorn Skeleton set-dressing and Belly-laugh Sarek.
And come on. We’re going to see Cetacean Ops.
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One Response to Larry vs. Star Trek: Lower Decks 1-1 – “Second Contact”

  1. Jeff Herman says:

    And don’t forget those Jim Varney commercials telling people to “come on down to Cerr-i-tos Auto Square Verne!”

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