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Puerile 'Rift' Sends Up Sci Fi Genre

Sci Fi Channel takes a walk on the wild side with its new animated series Tripping the Rift, easily one of the network's most risqué offerings yet. The series debuts as part of the network's Thursday night lineup of originals.

follows the antics of the crew of "The Free Enterprise," the fastest spaceship in the galaxy. Purple alien Chode (Stephen Root, Office Space) is the ship's captain and leader of a tawdry band of smugglers. Gina Gershon (Showgirls) lends her vocals to Six, Chode's extremely … um … well-engineered android companion. Maurice LaMarche (Brain from Pinky & The Brain) is Chode's sexually confused robot slave, Gus, and The Howard Stern Show's "Stuttering" John Melendez plays Bob, the voice of The Free Enterprise. Aliens T'Nuk (Gayle Garfinkle) and Whip (Rick Jones) round out the crew.

Rift sends up all things science fiction, taking potshots at popular series like Star Trek and movies like Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey and more. Its risqué humor and libidinous crew are reminiscent of former Sci Fi series Lexx, once a cog in a Friday-night lineup far, far away.

All primetime animated series beg comparisons to The Simpsons, but Rift falls short of the sly, sardonic wit of Springfield's first family. Most of Rift's puerile and over-the-top humor comes in the form of innuendo and jokes about Six's well-endowed frame. The show also lacks the non-sequiturs that keep The Simpsons— and Futurama, Matt Groening's other animated series — lively.

Instead, Rift comes off as the little brother of Comedy Central's South Park and Cartoon Network's Futurama, trying to emulate the older series.

In the first episode, Rift
takes on religion as Chode and Gus travel back in time and inadvertently kill God. They return to their own epoch to find a universe without evil. Chode takes it upon himself to introduce evil to the unsuspecting galaxy. The animation is slick, but the show's digs at the overly religious don't seem especially biting.

Future episodes offer more promise. In one, the crew travels to the planet Kubrickia to place a huge monolith, while another takes a few knocks at Rollerball.

Tripping the Rift debuts Thursday, March 4, at 10:30 p.m. on Sci Fi Channel.