Stingray Sam: Tiny Robots, Space Cowboys, and David Hyde Pierce
If you're a fan of Cory McAbee's sci-fi rock musical American Astronaut (and if you're not a fan of American Astronaut, you probably haven't seen American Astronaut), you probably have a good idea of what to expect from Stingray Sam. McAbee stars as the titular space cowboy, who gets yanked from his new career as a lounge singer for one last job—to save a young girl from a creepy celebrity named Fredward who wears a tight red rubber suit. With the assistance of his partner in crime, the Quasar Kid (played with cheerful big-dumb-sidekick equanimity by the mono-nomenclatured actor Crugie), Sam will have to project himself into a tiny robot, survive a climactic gunfight in the desert, and sing and dance.
Where Astronaut was practically operatic in scope, Stingray Sam is very much framed as a children's entertainment—specifically an old-time Saturday morning serial. Each episode opens with a theme song (full lyrics: "Stingray Sam is not a hero/But he does do the things that folks don't do that need to be done/He's got a bravery inside/That won't let him run away/Will not let him run") and is narrated with enthusiastic, breathy gusto by David Hyde Pierce (who also helpfully reminds the kiddies at the top of each episode that the show is sponsored by Liberty Chewing Tobacco).
Stingray Sam's not as ambitious as Astronaut in either its homespun special effects or its musical pedigree, but it's at least three times as affable. The precociously convoluted backstory is spun out via gorgeous collages created by John Borruso. McAbee's charming self-deprecation has been polished to a shine here, bringing the audience in on the joke in nearly every scene. By the time he and the Quasar Kid sing a nonsense song in the second episode about cloning ("Bob and Ringo had a son named Bingo/Zach and Deke had a son named Zeke/Bill and Jeff had a son named Biff"), they've won the viewer's heart.