Current Issue #488

Space Force

This 10-episode web series was slapped together to roundly mock President Trump’s ridiculous proposal of the same name, and due to its hasty, half-formed nature the thing is mainly an interstellar mess.

Created by star/producer Steve Carell and Greg Daniels (who helped spearhead the Carell-starring US version of The Office and so much more besides), this can’t help but offer a few laughs due to its formidable comic cast and clumsily elaborate setpieces, yet the scathing satire you’re hoping for never quite happens. And Carell is grounded over and over again.

Steve plays Air Force Lieutenant General Mark Naird, a character who falls somewhere between his Michael Scott from The Office and George C. Scott’s General Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb, and mostly uses an annoying raspy voice that we haven’t heard before (except when he forgets to). So uptight that he’s seen early on stiffly marching to the loo in the middle of the night, Mark is introduced in episode one being made a four-star General and hoping for a promotion to Chief of Staff of the Air Force, but instead he’s appointed the first Chief of Operations of the slightly mystifying United States Space Force.

His wife Maggie (Lisa Kudrow) and teen daughter Erin (Diana Silvers) are proud anyway, but a year later they’ve unwillingly relocated to a secret base in Colorado, Erin is miserable and Maggie is in prison for reasons that prove a little unclear. The virulently anti-science Mark is also perpetually at odds with Dr. Adrian Mallory, as played by John Malkovich at his most John Malkovich-ian.

This first episode has the team finally (finally!) getting a preposterously expensive satellite named Epsilon 6 into orbit and having it sabotaged by the Chinese in a bit of plotting that Trump would love. And that’s it for Ep. 1, and after this there’s lots of daft exposition, awkward and occasionally baffling padding, and oh-so-goofy character quirks to fill in the remaining 270 or so minutes.

The cast manage some bright moments though, and right from the word go we see Carell’s Mark in a meeting with military bigwigs briefly portrayed by smallscreen faves including Diedrich Bader, Jane Lynch and the monumentally hammy Patrick Warburton. Later Tawny Newsome has some cute scenes as Captain Angela Ali (assigned to look after the acting-out Erin), Noah Emmerich stomps around as Mark’s would-be nemesis General Kick Grabaston (“Panties!”), Jimmy O. Yang is the exasperated Dr. Chan Kaifang (fed up with Mark’s racism) and dear old Fred Willard pops up as Mark’s poor, dementing Dad Fred. It’s the beloved Willard’s final role (he died on May 15), and several episodes are adoringly dedicated to him.

But these illustrious jokers can’t completely offset the wobbly, wayward plot and paucity of ideas, and the feeling that if Carell, Daniels and Co. had only waited a little longer and let the wannabe-satire percolate properly, then this would have been harsher, bitchier and more amusing. It’s a tad embarrassing to also consider that initially the key argument against Trump (only referred to as ‘POTUS’ here) and his Space Force was the sheer vagueness of it all – and this joking series is just as wispy.

Perhaps, too, this whole enterprise was a touch cursed, given that Space Force was only a ludicrous name back when the series kicked off, but now it’s become one of several obvious means for Trump to hopefully distract the polarised American population from the myriad calamities of his administration. And, therefore, it’s no longer, you know, funny.

Reviewer Rating

Space Force (M) season one is now streaming on Netflix.

DM Bradley

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