Fun fact: just as it debuted, Netflix’s Space Force found itself at odds with Donald Trump’s Space Force via copyright claim. As it happens, the sitcom filed trademark applications well ahead of the suggested sixth branch of the U.S. military. Thus we have the situation of a military branch battling its parody over its name and possible future merchandising claims. Sadly, this bizarre situation is about as funny as Space Force gets. If you already gave it a watch, you probably already forgot about it. If you haven’t, buckle up, kids because it’s a bumpy ride from here.
Created by Greg Daniels and Steve Carell, the show follows Mark Naird (Carell), a four-star general who is forced into the position of Chief of Space Operations for a new branch of the military created by a president who doesn’t understand either military or space. The premise is of course, derived from true events, and it’s a good example of Netflix exuding big-dick energy in terms of content creation, if not actual comedy. Showrunner Daniels not only created two of the best sitcoms of all time — the US version of The Office and Parks and Recreation — but has a current hit with Amazon Prime’s Upload. In addition to its pedigree, the show features a phenomenal cast, boasting Carrell, John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, Lisa Kudrow, Patrick Warburton, Jane Lynch, and the late, great Fred Willard, among its ranks.
The basic concept of Space Force would give any TV exec an erection at the first pitch meeting: take The Office, put it in space, and double down on comedic talent and budget. The thing should write itself. What can go wrong? As it turns out, a lot.
Space Force is a massive misfire as the comedy flails from joke to joke, not knowing how to land. The sitcom takes aim at the current political situation in America, satirizing everything from out-of-touch boomers to U.S. Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But a good parody is only as strong as its subject, and this is where Space Force crashes and burns. It doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be.
Daniels and his cast seem at a loss outside of the mockumentary format, and the show turns on a dime from biting satire to goofball comedy without warning. The writing has its moments, but the overall effect is somewhat confusing as the audience is left to ponder what they are watching. Carell does little to help the situation as he settles into his Michael Scott character once again, playing the familiar fool with good intentions, only this time around, instead of creating an awkward work environment through his inept leadership at a fictional paper company, it’s an awkward work environment through his inept leadership at a military facility.
But the biggest problem with this one is its truth. It’s making fun of a political system that most of us understand is very, very broken. It takes a gentle hand to poke fun at sensitive areas in society, and Space Force is not that. Punching blindly at everything and anything in an effort to make a joke land, the show lacks the refinement needed to navigate satire in today’s social climate. Instead of laughs, we are left with a heavy-handed swipe at stuff that stopped being funny and started being sad and scary a long time ago. Which makes Space Force neither the fun binge, nor is it the social commentary that we need right now.