Netflix’s Space Force was set up for a successful launch long before it premiered on Netflix May 29. The American series marks the return of comedian Steve Carrel in his first comedy series role since the The Office and features an ensemble of who’s who of some of TV’s most accomplished comedy actors.
The ten episode first season came out coincidentally close to the launch of SpaceX the first manned private human space craft to orbit. Interestingly, the first episode also seems to mirror some of the events of the 2020 launch with both the series’ launch and the real life NASA SpaceX launch happening despite worries of bad weather.
Another way the show seems rooted in real life is with the choice of politicians and people in power, many of whom seem to mirror current leadership of the states. Yet with so much to mine for Space Force rarely strikes comedy gold.
Cast Of Comedians
3… 2… 1… we have lift off. Space Force is now streaming. 🚀 pic.twitter.com/IGecGJceip
— Space Force (@realspaceforce) May 29, 2020
Space Force makes it abundantly clear, quite quickly, that putting a bunch of funny people in a room together isn’t necessarily a recipe for success. Featuring Carrel, John Malkovich (Being John Malkovich), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation) lining the main cast and supporting actors as great as Lisa Kudrow (Friends), Jane Lynch (Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), Deidrich Bader (Veep), Noah Emmerich (The Americans) and the late Fred Willard, there is a lot of potential in the show right from the get go.
Netflix’s big budget sitcom is very flashy, with visuals matching that of a blockbuster space film, aiding the series in achieving a movie level sheen but everything about Space Force is humdrum. The splashy visuals and big sets can’t mask Space Force for the misfire it is even if the grandiloquent look of the series makes it look more like a badly made movie.
Carrel plays General Naird, a recently promoted four star Cheif who is tasked with leading the newly established Space Force division of the United States government whilst struggling to raise his teenage daughter Erin (Diana Silvers from Booksmart). With the President wanting men on the moon by 2024, Naird with chief scientist Dr Mallory and his assistant Chan (Jimmy O. Yang) get to work.
There’s a lot of good in the show in terms of casting, even with the younger, relatively newer cast. Tawny Newsome is able to make an impression as a Space Force pilot. Russian import Alex Sparrow has excellent comedic timing even if his entire character amounts to a single gag that is never quite as funny as the showrunners assume.
What Works And What Doesn’t
However where it stumbles, is with Diana Silver’s take on the classic surly teenage daughter. There isn’t anything new about a teenager that has a rocky relationship with her dad and acts out and Space Force chooses to retread over familiar ground with her relationship with her father.
Lisa Kudrow who plays Erin’s mother and Naird’s wife is basically benched during the duration of the show. This is all the more aggravating given how one note the rest of the family is without her and considering that Kudrow could have been a valuable asset to the show. Her absence is supposed to come off as a shocking surprise but given that we know her all but twenty minutes in the first episode, it just feels like a wasted opportunity to put Kudrow in the mix.
If the show is successful in any way, it is thanks to the off the charts chemistry between Carrel and Malkovich an unlikely duo who are never short of screen presence and can enliven the dullest of scenes. Carrel’s character isn’t much like his star making turn as Micheal Scott- with Naird possessing a lot of the heart but none of the stupidity of his Office character.
John Malkovich’s Dr. Mallory feels more real than any of the characters on the show, playing the straight man to Carrel’s colorful lead. His calm nuanced performance packs a greater punch than most of the other actors in the ensemble. His casting and character is the one place where the show has truly done a fantastic job, bringing in an actor who is so profoundly skilled that he is able to hold his own even when the writing is falling apart around him.
Space Force Crash Lands
If you’ve ever wondered what astronauts are thinking about before liftoff, this probably isn’t it. pic.twitter.com/RU8sr8wZ9a
— Space Force (@realspaceforce) June 18, 2020
Perhaps its the attempt to mold Space Force into a more prestige TV version of a standard sitcom, perhaps its simply about shaking things up for the team behind Space Force. But there is just nothing particularly endearing, let alone amusing about a show that should be a slam dunk for such a creative team but ends up being merely watchable.
The show is confused about whether it wants to be a workplace comedy- an idea that is so much harder to execute given the unusual setting and premise of the show- or a Veep like political satire. So, it settles for an awkward mixture of both, never quite figuring out if it wants to be awkward and cringe inducing or witty and quirky.
Space Force is an earnest attempt at launching a sitcom that looks every bit as mega budget as a blockbuster film.
Unfortunately there is little to no humor present in the series and the cast of wildly talented but badly neglected actors only suffer from such weak characters. With TV comedies, it is always important to remember that they take a minute to find their rhythm, and the show does end on a promising note. Based on the ten episodes out on Netflix though, it is safe to say that this series crash lands before it even takes off.