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Space Force Review: Failure to Launch

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BY May 31, 2020
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A show like Space Force, with this cast and this pedigree, should be nigh on perfect. A show by the guy who created the American adaptation of The Office starring the guy from The Office? It should be a home run. But over the course of its ten brief episodes, it becomes clear that something isn’t right here. Find out more in our review of Space Force.

The Premise of Space Force

The premise is that the United States government really created a new military branch called the Space Force. But since they needed a little bit more than that, there is more. Steve Carell stars as General Mark Naird. At the start of the show, after his promotion to four-star general, he expects he’ll take over as Chief of Staff of the Air Force. But fate has other plans in mind for him, and instead, he gets the less glamorous position of Chief of Operations of Space Force.

A year later, he’s at a sprawling base in Nowheresville, Colorado, with daughter Erin (Diana Silvers). His wife, Maggie (Lisa Kudrow), who’d been fantasizing about life as the Air Force commander’s wife, is now in prison for an unspecified, but serious crime. (Her sentence is at least 40 years.)

space force review image via Netflix

At the Space Force base, General Naird is tasked with accomplishing the president’s tweeted goal: “boobs on the moon by 2024.” (They assume he meant “boots.” While the president on Space Force is never named, he shares a volatility and love of tweeting with a certain real-life president that hits too close to home, especially this week.) But Naird’s not just a party to the president’s whim; he also has competition from China, who is coming very close to getting their boobs on the moon. And all the while, the rigid general–“I can be flexible if I’m ordered to be”–is just trying to do his job while clashing with others, like Strangelove-ian scientist Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich). Or his social media manager F. Tony Scarapiducci (Ben Schwartz). Or the other Joint Chiefs, played by Noah Emmerich, Jane Lynch, Patrick Warburton, Diedrich Bader, and Larry Joe Campbell. You see, this is a stacked cast. So what went wrong here?

Space Force Review

First, let me say that isn’t a bad show, not by a long shot. But it’s just not as good as it could be. For one thing, it’s not very funny. Most of the time, the jokes are too broad. The satire lacks the sharpness of Daniels’s other recent series, Upload. And oftentimes, they miss the mark completely. Satire is best when it punches up, but the word that kept coming to me as I watched the show was “mean-spirited.” Maybe they shouldn’t have front-loaded the show with animal deaths (in episode 2)?

There’s also the wild tonal shifts, between workplace comedy and inspirational drama, complete with stirring music. It’s as if the show hasn’t figured out yet what kind of show it wants to be. But that was also an issue of Upload, whose first season ended on a much bleaker note than my review might have let on.

space force review image via Netflix

As the season goes on, the show does get better by increments. Naird seems to find his footing (and his humanity) more, and his combative relationship with Mallory settles into something more respectful. And the charming relationship between helicopter pilot Captain Angela Ali (Tawny Newsome) and scientist Dr. Chan Kaifang (Jimmy O. Yang) develops in a way that feels organic.

But other parts of the show are still underdeveloped, like Erin’s whole deal. She never quite gets beyond stereotypical sarcastic teenager. You can’t help but compare her to Parks and Recreation‘s April, especially when a sweet doofus, Duncan (Spencer House), tries to court her.

In Space, No One Can Hear You Dream

And Parks and Recreation, like The Office before it, both had infamous learning curves. The Office had to shed the British imprint and Parks and Rec had to shed The Office‘s style. Essentially, they had to be reworked from their original versions before they could truly achieve greatness. So there’s hope for Space Force yet. Again, it isn’t a bad show–it’s more a mediocre one with hints of something better. And hopefully by the time the second season rolls around, if they get one, they’ll have it as fine-tuned as a rocket engine.

Oh and speaking of rolls, roll tide, y’all. (Oh, I’m so sorry for liking winners.)

What were your thoughts on the first season of Space Force? Did you think it was just the balm we need for our troubled times or just a bomb? Let us know here on or on social media.

featured image via Netflix

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Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.

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