Co-creators Greg Daniels (The Office, Parks and Recreation and Upload) and Steve Carell reunite for Space Force, the new 10-part absurd workplace comedy based on President Trump’s latest bonkers initiative to get boots back on the moon by 2024. Launching on Netflix with an all star cast and lavish production value, the new series marks the return of Carrell to a regular comedic TV role. But with expectations running high, does Space Force reach starry heights or fail to orbit?
Four-star general Mark R. Naird (Steve Carell) uproots his wife and daughter to a remote base in Colorado to lead the newly formed sixth branch of the US Armed Forces: Space Force. Tasked by the White House to militarise space and protect American satellites, Naird and his team of scientists and cadets race against time with China and India, whilst attempting to avert PR blunders, prevent uniform disasters and … space chimps?!
When President Trump officially launched his new US Space Force back in December 2019 following Chinese and Russian advancements, the project was met with a lot of raised eyebrows, particularly following the ridiculous recruitment video and unveiling of the Star Trek inspired logo. Trump has since announced the development of a ‘super-duper’ missile, along with the force revealing a camouflaged uniform, much to Twitter’s amusement, so it was only a matter of time before somebody parodied the whole fiasco. Enter Greg Daniels and Steve Carrell, the pair who turned everyday situations and certain stereotypes in the workplace into a hilariously funny satire with The Office US.
However, the main problem with the series is the fact that the silly and absurd comedic elements don’t quite pay off considering things are just as ridiculous in real life. Clearly taking inspiration from the 1964 black comedy Dr Strangelove, the series dives deep into the president’s mission to militarise space and protect American satellites from threats at all costs. Unfortunately the ten episode series feels like it’s still finding its feet tonally, mixing inconsistent comedic moments and silly set pieces with more heartwarming scenes – resulting in an awkward debut season, much like the opening of Seth MacFarlane’s sci-fi comedy The Orville.
The series works best when exploring the incredibly dysfunctional workplace; whether that’s PR disasters, quarrelling over budgets, dealing with POTUS hissy fits or a hilarious paintball match between Space Force and the Air Force in the fifth episode. But where the show really strikes a chord is in the more heartfelt, charming moments – particularly between Carrell’s regimented veteran Naird and Malkovich’s stubborn head scientist Dr. Adrian Mallory. The series also delves into the emotional toll of military life on families through Naird’s strained relationship with his daughter, played by Booksmart’s brilliant Diana Silvers.
Filled with a fantastic supporting cast and hilarious guest stars, including Noah Emmerich, Jane Lynch, Diedrich Bader and Patrick Warburton who are all clearly having a blast as heads of other military branches, Space Force should be a lot funnier than it is. Also adding insult to injury is the fact that Lisa Kudrow and the late Fred Willard are also woefully underused, but the blossoming friendship between Jimmy O. Yang’s scientist and Tawny Newsome’s Captain definitely shine. Parks and Recreation fans will also be happy, as Ben Schwartz channels Jean-Ralphio as communications manager F. Tony Scarapiducci, who is affectionally known as F**k Tony.
Propelled by Carrell and Malkovich’s wonderful dynamic, Space Force excels in the quieter, more heartfelt moments – much like Daniel’s previous sitcom Parks and Recreation. Yes it’s ridiculous and the plot is paper thin, but there’s something genuinely likeable about it. If the series is renewed for a second outing, I hope the show is able to course correct following tonal inconsistencies of an initial turbulent launch.