As soon as President Donald Trump announced his creation of the “Space Force,” his own branch of space exploration that would add the domain of space into another branch of the military, people all across the Internet and media had a field day. Not only does the name sound like a knockoff Star Trek TV show that only lasted for one season, the militarization of space seems like a ludicrous idea that misuses authority and wastes taxpayer money. So what does Hollywood do? Make a comedy TV show about what a Space Force under the Trump administration will look like, of course. Once Greg Daniels (The Office, Parks and Recreation) and comedy king Steve Carell hopped onboard, this show appeared to be a journey worth taking. However, similar to the real-life Space Force, all this show does is waste the time and money of everyone involved, and it seems like the creators slapped this together at the last minute. It is not without its cute characters and moments, but overall this is a wholly forgettable and neutral watch that fails to bring half the enjoyment expected from A-listers like Carell.
Carell leads this season as a former air force general who is tasked by the Secretary of Defense to head up the Space Force: a job that nobody wants and that leads him to move to a secret base in the middle of Colorado with his unwilling family. The first episode jumps forward a year and we are re-introduced to Carell as the proud but ignorant general of the Space Force, with his wife (Lisa Kudrow) now in jail and his lead scientist (John Malkovich) dissenting from his warlike approach. Clear political commentary laces every single episode of this season, with blatant criticisms of the Trump administration front and center throughout. The plot of entire episodes revolves around what the “POTUS,” as he is called in the show, randomly tweets out at five in the morning. Space Force also points out the stupidity of the brute force approach that much of the government is taking under Trump’s leadership. A constant reference is made from Carell and other government figures to just bomb anything that gets anything in their way, which blatantly points out the stupidity and arrogance that pervades the federal government at the moment. While this message is all well and good, it feels very forced due to the comedic nature of the show, and the satire never does justice to the issues it is trying to tackle. Along with this, since Space Force simply isn’t as funny as it wants to be, the show never quite delivers the quality laughs that other shows from Daniels deliver consistently.
Regrettably, the weakest and most disappointing aspect of this show is Carell himself, who seems like he is trying to recreate his character from The Office but disguised as an Army general. His gruff voice inflection always seems out of place, and the majority of his jokes contain too much awkwardness without the funny pay-off. Along with this, his storyline throughout the ten-episode progression is so uninteresting that I felt the need to skip all of the scenes revolving around his family struggles (of which there are many). Basically, since his wife is in jail, he is having trouble realizing that he can only have sex with her twice a year in conjugal visits. He wants to date other people, but he still loves his wife so he feels like he is betraying her if he agrees to an open relationship. If that sounds boring to you then you’re definitely not alone. Space Force asks me to find a middle-aged man’s sex life interesting and funny, and since the creators never give us anything genuinely humorous, that proposition is far too much to ask. His daughter (Diana Silvers) is interesting near the beginning of the season, but eventually her character gets caught up in her dad’s boring storyline, so she ends on a low note.
The best parts of this show don’t involve the constant political humor or the crumbling marriage storyline — they involve the relatively strong supporting characters, such as Malkovich as the voice of reason and Jimmy O. Yang as a sharp and funny scientist. It’s fitting that the smartest characters in the show are also the funniest and most interesting. Yang has a charming relationship with the main captain in Space Force (Tawny Newsome), and I cared more about these two characters more than everything else in the entire season. However, a sudden plot development in the ninth episode puts somewhat of an end to this romance. The showrunners give Carell much more screen time than any other actor, but his storyline is far less substantive than almost everyone else. It’s a shame he’s the main character or else I’d say they should just put an end to his story arc and direct the focus to more worthy plotlines. The showrunners need to either spend more effort on making Carell’s storyline funnier or they need to change the focus of the entire show.
The final ten minutes of the final episode have the most intriguing plot of all the episodes, yet as soon as it gets interesting they leave the audience on one of the cheapest cliffhangers I’ve seen in a TV show in a while. This is one more indicator to me that this show was put together with a minimum amount of thought. It seems like Netflix hired a bunch of A-list celebrities with an average concept and expected the show to come together on its own. For next season (if there is one), they need to put a considerable amount of more creativity and effort into each episode. Second, they need to find a more humorous approach to the script and general product that this show provides — this season has far too many episodes that fall flat on their face (“Save Epsilon 6” and “Edison Jaymes” are two that come to mind). There is potential here and I could see Space Force getting better in the future, but there is a lot of work to do.
Space Force is never terrible because of the redeeming supporting characters that make it tolerable, but it is still so disorganized that it’s not worth a watch in the long run. I expected far better from Carell and Daniels, and I hope they can improve this in the future. The political humor never lands because it constantly contradicts itself with pointless additions, such as the Senators named Pitosi and “the young and loud senator,” which are borderline offensive parodies of Nancy Pelosi and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. Too many tone deaf and pointless decisions like this are made that clearly weren’t thought through, and the show is never allowed to thrive as a result. Even though it is a show about launching into space, Space Force never successfully lifts off of the ground.
I give Space Force: Season 1 a C-.