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After reviewing Greg Daniels’ last show and being pleasantly surprised by it, I couldn’t wait to see what he was going to create next. And, just when I thought I couldn’t get more excited, his next show saw him returning to collaborate with his ‘The Office’ star Steve Carell, in what promised to be, in some way, shape or form a great show.
Space Force starts with General Mark R. Naird (Steve Carell) getting a promotion and believing he will take over from his arch-nemesis General Kick Grabaston (Noah Emmerich) as leader of Air Force. Only to be told, a new branch of the military has been created by POTUS and it is called ‘Space Force’ (just as President Trump announced the same thing two years ago). One year later, we see the pressure being put on Naird from POTUS as well as his lead scientist Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich).
One thing will become apparent very quickly as you watch this show, and that is there isn’t a distinct structure to the show. The entire concept of the show seems to be a sketch that has been dragged out into a series, and whilst the series gets better as it goes along, it never finds what it wants to be. Whether, it wanted to be a comedy, or a drama, or a political parody, it struggles to get there and just as it seems it’s making strides in one area, it does something to undo it all in the next episode.
First and foremost, Space Force attempts to be a workplace comedy, and this does not work, granted; it does course correct (see what I did 😉) in the latter episodes, but within the first few episodes, the only real interaction we see between characters are between Naird and Mallory, culminating in a worthy pay-off in the fourth and fifth episode. But up until then, no other character is really important except those two.
During the first few episodes, it is so hard to work out if it is a workplace comedy, because there seems to be hardly anyone in the cast. It’s hard to work out, who is a secondary character, and who is tertiary character because Tony (Ben Schwartz) has such little screen time in the first two episodes, and so too Captain Angela Ali (Tawny Newsome) who is criminally under-written for the first few episodes. But, these characters are main characters of the show. And taking someone like, Dr. Chan Kaifang (Jimmy O. Yang) who seems to be as important as a character like Yuri “Bobby” Telatovich but then in the final stretch of the season gets a massive arc.
The answer to what the show tries to be is everything, Space Force seems to want to do it all. And, I haven’t even factored in the relationships the show attempts to showcase, between Naird and his wife Maggie (played by Lisa Kudrow), and Naird and his teenage daughter Erin (Diana Silvers). A relationship I don’t think is done particularly well, as that story-line between her and her father never really takes centre stage, but is rather an excuse to have Erin in the show more than she needs to be, and by that I mean Maggie isn’t in a few episodes and yet seems to be as developed as Erin.
The episodes themselves, for the most part don’t seem to have a clear beginning or ending to the them. There a few episodes where it seems the creators just dropped a pin and went, ‘lets cut it off there’. And, it is so frustrating, because among all this confusion, the recipe for a hit is still there, and episode 8 is truly amazing. There are powerful performances and strong development for a lot of characters, and it’s the first time it feels as though we are seeing characters interact independently from Naird.
But, Space Force does improve, and it would go amiss if I didn’t state there are moments of brilliance. Whilst some might not, I really enjoyed the chimpstronaut, and the dynamic between Naird and Malloroy which pay-offs in the fourth and fifth episode, and, the dialogue that Carell delivers as Naird throughout the show is incredible. And, as the show continues, characters come into their elements, I loved any moment Brad and Tony had to themselves, and I really enjoyed the potential romance between Chan and Angela.
Furthermore, the talent on this show is crazy! Steve Carell does well, with the scenes of him singing being a highlight but John Malkovich really saves the show, especially during those first episodes where the show struggles. Ben Schwartz and Don Lake are great in any scene they’re in, and although under-written, Tawny Newsome is great in any scene she is in. And, those are just the main characters! This show is stacked with talent, we have Lisa Kudrow, Jane Lynch and Patrick Warburton all in recurring roles.
Whilst I don’t think Space Force starts well, I think it finishes better, and I am somewhat fascinated to see where the second season goes. As, certain seeds are planted that will come to fruition, and now, it seems the characters have been developed and the show can start to have fun with them, and I really want to see the end of the cliffhanger.
To conclude, I would say Space Force has more misses than hits, and that stems from me not really knowing what it is, and to the same extent, it not knowing what is is. Is this show an observation on the political climate of the United States? Is it a drama?
Or is it a comedy? To which; unfortunately, it seems I missed a lot of the jokes, and yes, there are a few genuine chuckles and they again, come from the side characters interacting with each other. Or like I’ve said, it is a workplace comedy? If it is, there are too many moving parts and external factors to feel as though that is done successfully throughout the show.
Space Force takes its time in finding its footing, but never manages to feel fresh or unique, maybe that is because the COIVD-19 pandemic we find ourselves in at the moment has changed my viewing habits. Because, this past month, I have re-watched classics like Community and The Office, and this just doesn’t feel as fresh or great as those.