The Office has become a timeless and beloved classic series. The shenanigans of the Dunder Mifflin Scranton office personal providing hours of endless entertainment, accolades of the series continuing to grow even years after it has ended. Catching lightning in a bottle once, Steve Carell and Greg Daniels look to recreate the magic with their latest series Space Force. While the idea surrounding a comedic take on the president’s declaration of returning astronauts to the moon seems like a solid undertaking on paper, Space Force proves lightning does not always strike twice.
Second time around
Space Force kicks off like many premieres before it, awkward and off-kilter, each introduction hopeful of connecting to an audience. Though as it continues to find its footing, there are moments that give a glimpse to a show that could have been. What plays out instead is an amateur attempt at TV comedy, relying on antiquated humor and gags that unfortunately drown any hopes of salvation.
The easiest way to explain Space Force is also its harshest critique – a grown-up Michael Scott goes to kindergarten – at NASA. While Steve Carrell attempts to distance himself from his previous role in The Office, there are undertones that he just can not shake. He can change his voice and stature, yet Scott’s childish thoughts and reckless drive continue to push through. While this is more apparent at the beginning of the season, even his “it’s the people that matter” mantra makes a comeback.
Now, couple this with a severely lacking ingenuity in the narrative storytelling and accompanying humor. While the first episode “The Launch” struggled for a footing, giving mystery with no intent and jabs with no structure, it is the adolescent and childish episodes that follow that truly ground this flight. Episode 2 “Save Epsilon 6!” presents a potentially disastrous sabotage of a satellite by the Chinese government, one the Space Force team attempts to rectify utilizing a monkey and Husky onboard – animals that were sent into space with the intent of social media engagement but no return to earth. With a rather depressing concept of the animal’s place in the narrative and the childish humor of getting a monkey to reattach the satellite’s panels, honestly, I was ready to turn it off from here.
There was no authenticity or validity to the story or to the mission. As the episodes continue, from faulty flight fuel to a Chinese and American standoff on the moon, the series presents itself more as a frustrating facade – as frustrating as the facade the Space Force team is attempting to recreate for POTUS and the American public.
A Faulty Launch
While the score (almost Addams Family-Esq at times adding positively to the absurdity) and John Malkovich are the strongest elements of the series, they are lost and at times forgotten. There is a lack of chemistry between the pairings of characters, an awkward connectivity that is never truly resolved until the final 15 minutes of the last episode. Here, they unify and connect giving intrigue and interest, a bit too late for an audience that may have already departed.
And when talking about characters, it is not just their connectivity that is lacking, but diversity. Space Force checks off the boxes, its inclusionary casting filling the bill. Yet, in a mostly lead male cast, there is a severe lack of appropriate female representation. Most of the high profile positions of power and knowledge are filled by men. Generals are primarily men, scientists are primarily men – mostly anyone in a position of power are men.
When females are brought on screen, however, they are portrayed as criminals, con artists, a female pilot whose ambition is translated as bitchy (and even later on as merely a complacent pawn), a corrupt and ambitious media manager and an angsty daughter. To top it off, women are eye candy or the butt of the joke rather than a viable element of storytelling. A Handmaid’s Tale themed protest and comments regarding the existent or nonexistence of a congresswoman’s panties not only detract from the focus of the series but leave a bad taste.
One of the most entertaining elements of Space Force is the jabs at the President of the United States (POTUS). While it will turn some viewers away, if you are up on current events, or the last four years of the president and his family’s time in the White House, these are sure to be tidbits that may not have you rolling with laughter, but will definitely catch your attention.
Comments like “expect a nuke storm on Twitter”, “He has a name for India I can’t say” and “when did making the President happy on his birthday become a part of our mission” are just some of the tantalizing jabs that litter the entire series. While never said by name, his is the ultimate joke of Space Force, both in these punches but for the series as a whole. Even FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) is a target, a semi-comedic attempt to create extravagant Space Force uniforms leaching the validity of the mission further.
Though as entertaining it might be, these do not save Space Force in the long run. They are little doses that help remind viewers the reason this show exists, as well as keep to you lingering on, but they are not enough.
Conclusion: Space Force
While it attempts to be timely and relevant, throwing jabs at a questionable leader and his mission of returning to the moon, Space Force leans on cheap humor and shallow narrative constructions throughout its entirety. While I had high hopes at the series announcement, Space Force failed to deliver. If there is a season two, I hope they leave the amateur humor behind, giving depth to its characters and interactions, giving more into the words they say than the person they are making fun of.
Space Force season 1 is currently streaming on Netflix.
Watch Space Force
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