Review: Space Force Takes One Small Step Towards A New Comedic Hit
You may remember that way back in 2018, United States president Donald Trump announced a new sixth branch of the US Armed Forces: Space Force. A proposed branch of the military that would deal with space warfare was met with mostly unanimous mockery, but still it seemed to forge ahead. But it would seem that along with criticism and think pieces, the conception of the Space Force has also given us a brand new Netflix Original show from Greg Daniels and Steve Carell. Together, they form a formidable comedic duo as the minds behind the American version of The Office, and Daniels is also known for having a hand in creating both King Of The Hill and Parks and Recreation. It’s exciting to see a brand new show debut from these two, especially about a current-day topic with lots of room for biting political satire as the real-life situation continues to evolve. It’s a promising and fluid concept for a television show that a lot of people were looking forward to. But with audiences coming into this series with expectations as high as the golden age of The Office, does it truly live up to the hype and carve out enough of an identity to stand on its own? Let’s go over the debut season of Space Force and see.
One of the main draws of this show is that it is both created by and stars office sitcoms’ favorite funny guy, Steve Carell as General Mark R. Naird, the newly-promoted military leader that is chosen to head Space Force at the beginning of the show. He spends much of the series desperately trying to make the most out of being assigned to a joke of a military branch, but in a fairly boneheaded way that often leaves his advisor, Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich) rubbing his temples in exasperation. Mark struggles to keep the hidden Colorado base afloat with the help of an expansive cast of supporting characters, such as the grounded pilot Captain Angela Ali (Tawny Newsome), wacky scientist Dr. Chan Kaifang (Jimmy O. Yang), and purposefully annoying social media manager F. Tony Scarapiducci (Ben Schwartz), among many others. While the supporting cast give Mark plenty of workplace conundrums to resolve, he faces problems at home as well. He certainly has his hands full between trying to relate to his teenage daughter Erin (Diana Silvers) who resents him for moving their family and deciding the future of his relationship with his wife Maggie (Lisa Kudrow) who was recently incarcerated for a crime that we hilariously never actually learn about. Each episode brings a brand new insane issue within Space Force, whether it be ridiculous demands from the president or trying to find a spy within the base, there’s always something crazy going on to hold your attention.
It’s sort of odd how Steve Carell as our main character is such a major draw to the show, but I found many of the supporting characters to be far more entertaining and funny, and fans seem to be leaning that way as well. Not that Mark is an inherently bad protagonist, he’s just a bit underdeveloped and could’ve been given some better material, although he definitely has his moments. More often, it was John Malkovich’s witty sarcasm (or the power of passive aggression, as he describes it) and Ben Schwartz’s chaotic idiocy that got the most laughs. Lisa Kudrow’s character needs far more screen time as she is hilarious in the role of the well-off suburban mom starting prison gangs and delivering threatening lines in her signature silly, ditzy way that the actress has mastered. Diana Silvers’ character deserves a lot more development, as they took an actress who has already shown how comedically capable she was in the hit film Booksmart and relegated her to a stereotypical grumpy teen girl role, which will hopefully improve in future seasons. Jimmy O. Yang and Tawny Newsome’s characters were good alone, but especially funny and cute together, so hopefully their chemistry will continue to be utilized in the future. But while the cast is overall pretty great in their roles, the jokes can either be very funny or fall very flat. Often, the situational humor worked far less than the back-and-forth character interactions, especially since they oddly didn’t utilize very much satire in this show based on a satirical concept. If they alluded to the president or any other governmental authorities, it was vague and didn’t really have much to say outside of “politicians sure are dumb sometimes, huh?” Satire is more than just pointing to laughable current events, it’s meant to use exaggeration to criticize a specific part of whatever it’s satirizing. It did do this at some points, but there was much more room for witty and subtle tongue-in-cheek moments that I went in expecting but didn’t really receive.
The first seasons of comedies often stumble around a bit before finding their footing, but that doesn’t mean they can’t grow into something great. In fact, the first season of The Office was notoriously short, mediocre, and nearly canceled, but then it went on to redefine comedic TV shows. Parks and Recreation had a similar situation, so it’s not out of the question for Space Force to find it’s niche, apply constructive criticism, and become the new favorite show of the masses. Like I mentioned before, there’s a lot of potential in the setup here and a great cast behind it, so it’s all a matter of what Space Force does next. Although not officially greenlit for a second season, it’s been confirmed that future episodes are being planned out and worked on, so it’s very likely we’ll be seeing more of this show (not to mention that cliffhanger ending). I for one am excited to see what comes next and want to see it succeed. This first season had its highs and lows, but it’s worth a watch if you’re in need of a new comedy show to follow for awhile. When the second season inevitably releases, we’ll finally get to see if the show can surpass its debut and blast off into the stratosphere.