Netflix’s Space Force Brings Steve Carell Back To Comedy, For Better Or For Worse…
The reviews are in for Netflix‘s highly anticipated workplace comedy, Space Force. However, reception hasn’t been kind to Steve Carell‘s return to comedy — even if he teamed with Greg Daniels, the man who brought us The Office.
So if Space Force reunited two comedy legends, why the negative reviews?
Netflix’s Space Force is supposed to be a funny look at the real-life branch of the US Military announced by Trump in 2018. Don’t expect it to be anything like The Office … like, at all.
The show follows General Mark Naird (Carell), a lifelong military man who is put in charge of the Space Force. He’s hardworking, serious and juggling a lot of issues in his personal life.
The Space Force’s first mission is to get boots back on the moon as soon as possible. As Naird quickly learns, it’s going to be much harder than he thought.
On top of his military duties, Naird is struggling with his strained relationship with his daughter. Not only that, his wife (Kudrow) is serving time in prison for a forgettable reason … so there’s that.
Space Force seems to have several plot lines being told all at once involving various side characters. This ends up confusing the viewer on what we should be focused on. We’ll get into more on that mess later.
Netflix went all out on getting a ton of A-list stars for Space Force. The talented cast includes Steve Carell, John Malkovich, Lisa Kudrow, Ben Schwartz, Jane Lynch, Patrick Warburton, Fred Willard (RIP) and many more.
Carell does what he can with the character of Naird, however, it’s not very funny. Throughout the entire 10-episode first season I had a hard time figuring out if General Naird is dumb or just determined. I still don’t know.
The difference between Mark Naird and Michael Scott is obvious. With Scott, his incompetence is clearly part of his personality but he shines in moments of real heart. He’s a sweet guy who does dumb things. Naird, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have much of a personality outside his serious military attitude. I mean … he dances when no one is looking sometimes, but we’re not sure if that’s meant to mean he’s goofy at heart.
In fact, Naird is so serious throughout the entire season, some of his decisions really had me questioning his character’s intended personality. We see he’s obviously a smart and respectable man if he was able to work himself to the top of the Air Force ranks and be given control of the Space Force, right? Then all of a sudden we’re watching a scene where he is seriously suggestion sending a dog on a space mission to fix a broken satellite. Yeah …
One thing I couldn’t ignore was his voice. Carell plays Naird with this coarse, raspy voice that’s meant to mimic stereotypical military men. However, by the end of the first episode you’re left feeling like it’s a bit over-the-top. I can’t imagine Carell having to go through the entire series (if it’s even picked up) having to do such an unconvincing fake voice.
Despite all that, I believe there’s still potential for his character to grow. As frustrating as he may be, I can’t help but want General Naird to succeed in his efforts. He really is a hard worker and you don’t want him to fail based on his clueless staff.
My favorite cast member was Dr. Adrian Mallory, played by John Malkovich. Mallory is the Space Force’s Chief Scientist and Naird’s right-hand man. He’s the only one in the entire show who has a personality worth being interested in. He’s funny, nice and sort of an oddball. In contrast to Naird’s questionable decisions, he provides a level-headed, more realistic approach to situations.
I could tell the writers were trying to push a Jim/Dwight love-hate dynamic with Naird and Mallory. The general is often mean and critical of Mallory, but the two often shown as having mutual respect for each other. For example, in an episode where the two are butting heads, it ends with Mallory helping Naird pick out a tie to wear to a visit with his wife. It’s moments like these when Space Force show a glimpse of heart … but it’s far too rare.
The only other notable character is F. Tony Scarapiducci (Ben Schwartz), the Space Force’s Public Relations guy. Scarapiducci, an obvious parody of Anthony Scaramucci, is pretty much a clone of Shwartz’s popular Parks & Recreation characther, Jean Ralphio. He’s eccentric, rude and acts as the Space Force’s connection to the youth. Like Malkovich, Schwartz does what he can to liven up the mood whenever he’s on screen.
The rest of the cast of characters are forgettable, even in they have some funny moments. For example, the interactions between Naird’s pilot Angela Ali (Tawny Newsome) and scientist Dr. Chan Kaifang (Jimmy O. Yang) are interesting. However, even though they bring on a few laughs, I often wondered why their subplot is even necessary.
I really wanted to like Space Force. I don’t exactly hate it, but it has a long way to go if it wants to redeem itself in a second season. For starters, it needs to decide if it wants to be a full on comedy or a satire, like Veep. In fact, I can see a lot of Veep in the way this story is told, just a lot less effective.
Even as a comedy, Space Force didn’t seem to land its punches. I found myself cringing at how hard they were trying to be funny. During the short 10-episode first season, the laughs are few and far between. If I’m being honest, the only reason I stuck it out until the end was because I was waiting to see if the story would find its footing. It didn’t.
Space Force has a lot of potential and can take cues from shows like Veep. There doesn’t seem to be a clear direction for where the story is heading and the large cast of characters feels excessive. Although the supporting characters each have their quirks, they’re shoehorned into an already confusing narrative.
There might not have been much I enjoyed about the first season, but I’m still curious to see how Netflix will move forward. The talented cast alone is enough to give it another try and fix up some of the many missteps.