Space Force is the galactic comedy that Avenue 5 probably wants to be when it grows up.
Steve Carrell latched onto the concept of a fictitious United States Space Force through his agent, creating the show with writer / producer Greg Daniels (Upload, The Office, Parks & Recreation). The results are lean-back fun.
Carrell plays 4 star general Mark R. Naird given the command of the newest branch of the US Defences, at a sprawling base hidden deep in the Colorado mountains. It may be top secret, but even the local gas station manager knows about it all.
Naird has a mission: POTUS wants boots on the moon by 2024, to get back red, white & blue space dominance. But he is faced with failing test missions, a rising budget, and a wife (Lisa Kudrow) who is sent off to prison for reasons which are not immediately apparent.
At his side, and sometimes as a thorn in it, is scientist Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich) whose endeavours to do everything safely and scientifically are sometimes upstaged by the pure optimism -aka blissful ignorance- of Naird. Things go wrong a lot, but nothing will stand in the way of space progress for “the world’s oldest democracy.”
There’s also Naird’s very independent daughter Erin (Diana Silvers), a randy Russian observer Yuri (Alex Sparrow), a bumbling personal assistant Brad (Don Lake) and a Twitter-obsessed media manager (Ben Schwartz). Watch for cameos from Jane Lynch, Patrick Warburton and a supporting role by Noah Emmerich as Naird’s nemesis.
As a bonus Naird’s senile father is played by Fred Willard in his final role (the opening episode is also dedicated in tribute).
Production-wise this has money on the screen. For a TV comedy is it full of location shots with air force big toys and endless admin buildings. I don’t think I’ve seen a show with quite so many extras. It really adds to the credibility and luxury of it all.
Thankfully it all supports the comic timing of a growling Steve Carrell, balanced by the wobbly concern of Malkovich… an inspired pairing. When it all gets necessarily serious Carrell and Daniels veer left into the absurd or a visual gag, that taps into Carrell’s comic toolbox. Cue Kokomo.
But a word of warning. If you’re not a Carrell fan this may offer very little. Space Force could do more given its fine ensemble. The Office it may not be, but Houston, we have a crowd-pleaser.
Space Force is now screening on Netflix.