When it was announced that the United States was creating a new branch of the armed forces called Space Force, we all knew it would only be a matter of time before some kind of comedy show or movie was made about it. Lo and behold, 2 years later Netflix releases Space Force, starring Steve Carell, John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, and Diana Silvers. One would think that with this already ridiculous topic, this cast full of comedic talent, and a stable of veteran writers this show would be comedy gold. Unfortunately, it ain’t, this show fails to take off.
Space Force is about the newly formed branch of the American Armed Forces of the same name trying to establish itself and win the new “arms race” into space. Steve Carell plays Mark R. Naird, a four-star general appointed head of Space Force. He must move his wife, Maggie (Lisa Kudrow) and high school daughter Erin (Diana Silvers) to Utah to head the new branch. Together with chief scientist Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich) they must get “boots on the moon” by 2024. This show really suffers from an identity crisis. It can’t figure out if it wants to be funny or dramatic. Now there’s nothing wrong with trying to be both… but this show is neither. At it’s heart, it’s a workplace comedy, but the show itself seems to never want to go further than just the shallow end of the comedy pool. From “topical” jokes that already feel dated to “quirky characters” that never commit to the quirk… it’s just bland and uninspired.
The show is full of unlikable and uninteresting characters. Their social media director (because that’s what the armed forces really need) character name is literally F**k Tony (Ben Schwartz), because no one likes him. He seems like he should be in a different show altogether. Steve Carell does his best but most of the time it feels like he’s being held back. His character doesn’t come off as unintelligent, but they keep throwing in random gags a la The Office, which just doesn’t work for his character. He’s at his best when he’s struggling between his family and his career which at times can be genuinely heartfelt. That is until his daughter enters the picture.
Talk about unlikable characters, Erin is the definition of a latchkey kid with no redeemable qualities. Given her family situation, it’s understandable that she might not have a great outlook on life. But she’s constantly making stupid decisions with no comeuppance. By her own admission, the kids in school don’t like her because she was pretty crappy to them when she first moved there. From dating someone 10 years older who is clearly a Russian spy and using her to get info (which she’s called out for and doesn’t care cuz of daddy issues) to running away for the dumbest reason I’ve seen in a long time, she’s the worst and I’m being nice about it.
That’s not to say everything is bad. The moments when they stop trying to be funny and just be real can be truly heartwarming and give you a few chuckles. Dr. Mallory is no-nonsense about who he is and what he’s trying to do and makes a great foil/friend to the general. A storyline I wish they gave more attention to was building camaraderie between Captain Angela Ali (Tawny Newsome) and Dr. Chan Kaifang (Jimmy O. Yang). Apart or together, these characters were pretty great and interesting. Though it does feel they took a chunk or even an episode away from their storyline. They go out and do things that are just completely dropped without any conclusion that just isn’t brought up again. This isn’t the only time events are either not explained or just completely skipped over either.
The biggest sin of this show is that it just won’t commit to what it’s poking fun at. They continuous refer to the president as POTUS and FLOTUS. It’s very clear who this is — everyone is afraid of him being upset and tweeting out something and FLOTUS is sending design ideas for the Space Force uniform — but it feels like they’re afraid to say the name Trump. Their version of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Anabela Ysidro-Campos (AYC, played by Ginger Gonzaga) is a half-assed parody of AOC. Whether you like AOC or not, it’s just lazy and pointless to include the character.
And that’s the tagline for this show, lazy and pointless. It’s not the worse thing Netflix has put out but it isn’t worth your time. Uninspired comedy, badly written characters, and lazy parodies make this show one to skip. Netflix’s Space Force stays firmly on the ground.