Like many people over this last weekend, I watched Space Force. I mean, a new show form Greg Daniels and Steve Carell? Count me in. The trailer looked good. The cast is amazing. Stay at home orders are still in place. As such, I spent the weekend watching all 10 episodes. It’s not The Office. It’s not Parks and Recreation. However, Space Force is a good show, one that definitely feels as much like a Netflix show as a Greg Daniels show.
Carell stars as general Mark Naird, who in the pilot is put in charge of the newest branch of the United States military, Space Force. This is, of course, based on the insane reality we find ourselves in. There is a real Space Force now. Naird is played by Carell, but he isn’t a Michael Scott type. He’s a little buffoonish, sure, but he’s way more capable and has way more people skills. His ignorance more comes from being a military man in a world of scientists. Speaking of which, he works largely alongside Dr. Adrian Mallory, played by John Malkovich. Yes, John Malkovich is a primary character in a sitcom. What a world we live in.
Honestly, those two are basically the only real primary characters. You see the loaded cast, but even the people in the main cast aren’t often involved. I saw Jane Lynch in the trailer and I thought “Oh cool, Jane Lynch.” She has maybe 10 lines of dialogue in the entire season. Even primary cast members like Ben Schwartz and Tawny Newsome, two people I am a fan of, feel like afterthoughts half the time. The third-most-prominent character is probably Erin, Mark’s daughter, played by Diana Silvers, an actress I was not previously familiar with.
Space Force does seem a little overstuffed. However, at its best it is quite funny. Carell can act in a sitcom in his sleep, and Malkovich brings his specific energy. This is a workplace comedy, but the workplace involves trying to send people to the Moon. That means the stakes are quite high. You can also see the huge Netflix budget in action. It also manages to hit most of its emotional beats as well. In terms of storytelling, Space Force is quite successful. I wish it was funnier, but it’s usually pretty funny.
It also feels a bit slapdash at times. Most of the characters aren’t terribly distinct. They have some nods to real life, like an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stand in, that feel a little clunky. However, in the end, I liked the first season of Space Force. Nine of the 10 episodes were good. Then, there’s the third episode. That one was a real baffler. The first two episodes felt like a two-parter in many ways. The first episode is written by Carell and Daniels, and then Daniels wrote the second one. The third episode was the first not written by Daniels, and it was weird.
The third episode feels like a completely different show. Characters start acting differently in a jarring way. The comedy is all over the map. It’s not a good episode. It’s clumsy as hell. Then, everything goes back to how it was in the first two episodes. I really don’t know what happened there. I wish the third episode was skippable, but Netflix storytelling is about being bingeable and telling one overarching story, so you can’t. I just wanted to warn you so that you don’t get to episode three of Space Force and then give up. Push through. Mark Naird wouldn’t give up.