Space Force’s First Season Struggles to Get Off the Ground

Courtesy: Netflix

General Mark Naird  wanted to run the air force, but instead he got stuck in an office. Such is the fate of just about every character in Netflix’s new series, “Space Force.” Nobody in it is anywhere close to where they want to be. This feeling of disappointment is best exemplified by the song “Spaceman” by Harry Nilsson, which plays in the first and last episodes. 

“Space Force” covers the trials and tribulations involved with Gen. Naird’s (played by Steve Carell) attempts at creating a new branch of the U.S. military, the titular Space Force. There’s a number of small details that make this show currently relevant. First, it’s very much inspired by the real-life Space Force that President Trump has ordered created. The show focuses on satirizing the concept, but it also more broadly satirizes the U.S. military in general. They don’t do much with it up until the last episode, but there they kind of fell flat on their faces.

If you were hoping this show would be like “The Office,” you’ll be disappointed. This show is a bit more grounded, a bit dryer in its humor, and doesn’t have quite the same “energy.” For example, if a character in the Office felt like they had been slighted, they might spend the entirety of an episode engaging in zany hijinks to get back at the offending party. Here, to use John Malkovich’s character Dr. Mallory as an example, well he’d just make a lot of dry quippy comments dressing down the offending party, and endeavor to stone-wall him or her for the rest of the episode. This is still able to be funny, it’s just not quite the same brand of humor.

Looked at as a whole, Space Force feels a bit dull and flat. The comedy is hit or miss for the first half of the season. But on the other hand, the show’s more dramatic can be quite engaging. A fine example of this comes at the end of the second episode: General Naird’s been up all night dealing with a crisis at SF command, while his daughter is at home freaking out because he was supposed to spend the evening helping her study trigonometry before he had to run back to base. When he finally gets home, at about 6 or 7 in the morning, he sees her asleep at the kitchen table with her homework. When she wakes up, he insists on helping her with her homework, despite being awake for over 24 hours, and the episode ends with a heartwarming zooming out shot of the two of them working on it.

The main draw of Space Force is its character writing. However, the character writing is also a bit of a double-edged sword. The best parts of the show stem from its characters, and the worst parts stem from its characters. There are four principle characters that carry most of the show’s best moments. Those are General Naird (Steve Carell), Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich), 

Overall, it’s a worthwhile enough show to watch if you’re stuck at home with nothing to do. It’s not the best, but it’s not the worst, either. If you’re looking to try it out, then you should watch the first three episodes to gauge your interest level. If you want to keep watching after the third episode, then you’ll probably be fine with making it through all 10. And if you can’t get through the first episode, then the rest of the season probably wouldn’t do it for you either.

“Space Force” does have some real heart deep down, and it has the potential to become something more than it is right now. But what it currently is at the end of the day is another forgettable comedy on Netflix. Albeit with a more unique premise, and with a bit more genuine sincerity than most.

At a Glance

  • “Space Force”
  • Created by: Steve Carell and Greg Daniels
  • Starring: Steve Carell, John Malkovich, and Noah Emerich
  • Release Date: May 29, 2020
  • Grade: 5.5/10, slightly above average
  • Recommendation: Something to put on in the background
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