When it was announced that the US would be creating a Space Force it felt like a joke. It conjured an image of B-movie space men floating amongst the stars pew-pew-ing at green wobbly aliens or, worse, each other.
"Space is a war fighting domain," America's rabid president drooled during the announcement back in 2018. "Just like the air, land and sea."
The concept was instantly mocked and quickly became a meme, savaged on Twitter and explosively parodied. It was a good joke. Space Force. LOL.
Sadly, the same can't really be said of Netflix's new comedy series Space Force.
The show reunites Steve Carell with his former workmate Greg Daniels, who was the guy behind the American version of The Office.
This was very exciting for a lot of people. Which is fair enough. The Office is one of the biggest sitcoms of its time. I didn't particularly care for it, I prefer the suffocatingly bleak, comedically painful reality of Ricky Gervais' and Stephen Merchant's brilliant British original, but many friends of mine highly rate it.
But this pairing appears to have led people to believe that Space Force would be something of an unofficial sequel. The Office in Spaaaaaaace , if you will.
Space Force is not that. I'm not really sure what Space Force is. I laughed a few times. I got a bit bored. I checked my phone. I chuckled now and then. But I always hit 'next episode' and kept watching.
Because Space Force is watchable. Even if its attempt to blend comedy with drama never takes off.
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It's the dramatic elements that pull the show back to earth. Carell can be considered the show's sun, with everything else orbiting around his character, the stiff, career army man, General Mark R. Naird.
After being promoted to lead the newly minted Space Force , instead of the Air Force as he was hoping, he and his family relocate to the force's base in the Colorado desert so they can attempt to fulfill the president's desire to get "boots on the moon" by 2024.
We then skip forward a year and see his teenaged daughter is bored and ostracised in the dusty town, his wife for reasons unexplained is incarcerated and the mission continues to lurch from one stumbling crises to another.
I can see that with these elements Carell and Daniels were hoping to replicate the emotional punch of Daniels' previous hit shows like The Office and the great Parks and Recreation. Like I said I didn't gel with the former, but the latter danced beautifully on the fine line between the two.
I think the reason why is because Parks and Rec built to those moments. Space Force wants you to be invested right from the start and that's not really how it works. We don't know the characters well enough yet to care. Especially as for the most part they're still attempting to lift off from the broad brushstrokes of their stereotypes; mouthy PR guy, snarky scientist, sassy pilot etc etc etc.
While there's the odd nod or reference to the calamity of America's real life situation, the commander-in-chief implementing policy via Twitter or his delight with shiny things, Space Force is not a cutting satire of the administration. Its rare digs are kiddie gloved and disappointingly gentle.
But when it gets it right, it is funny. Carell's penchant for absurdity is utilised well, like the episode where mission control attempts to walk a chimpstronaut through a high risk space walk to repair a sabotaged satellite, the one that riffs on Matt Damon's potato eating space movie The Martian , or even just his insistence on referring to his troops on the ground as, "spacemen".
This absurdity, while funny, gives the show an uneven and slippery ground that sees the dramatic parts of the show falling flat on their ass.
But overall being mildly amusing doesn't really cut it. This thing should be supernova. Especially as Carell has surrounded himself with comedic superstars like Ben Schwartz, Lisa Kudrow, Jimmy O. Yang, Jane Lynch, Diedrach Bader and the wonderful Fred Willard in what would be his final role. And while it's Carell's show there's no doubt it belongs to John Malkovich who absolutely elevates every scene he's in as the Space Force's chief scientist.
In a lot of ways Space Force is a lot like the real thing; flashy and expensive and something you can't look away from. There's no denying it's not as funny as it should be and not as emotional impactful as it wants to be.
So while Space Force may be shooting for the moon it's yet to blast off.