Space force

Netflix’s ‘Space Force’ tells a terrible joke about America

If there was a way to watch Netflix’s new series space force without any dialogue, you might mistake it for a happier time drama. The show’s score, which appears intermittently in whiffs of gently driving strings and trumpets, seems to consciously evoke The west wing; in one episode, it soars with emphasis as a troop of astronauts rolls out of an aircraft hangar toward a glowing golden horizon. The directors include important names in the world of cinema: Dee Rees (muddy) and Paul King (Paddington). space force‘s set alone, which replicates a mess of a US military base in Colorado, is so sprawling and detailed and brilliant that it looks like it should belong in a James Cameron movie, not a Greg Daniels workplace comedy. At a time when entertainment has adapted to lo-fi spectacle — the Zoom comedy sketch, TikTok satire, performative library art — the obvious expense of space force almost feels unseemly, even without the reported $10 million Steve Carell was paid to star in it.

But then there’s the show itself, which is so weird, ill-conceived and untimely that not even Carell’s avuncular bonhomie can save it. For all its cinematic attributes, space force is a series with a single joke running through it, and that joke is American idiocy. The show was supposedly dreamed up a few years ago when President Donald Trump announced the creation of an extraterrestrial sixth branch of the armed forces, a project so absurd that most people went on to live their lives without really understanding that it was. was real – barring occasional reminders in the form of star trek vague recruiting badges and advertisements for Scientology. A grandiose, utterly unnecessary and obscenely expensive militaristic monument to the delicate ego of a porcelain man! What’s funnier? Law?

Mark Naird (Steve Carell) is tasked with leading the new Space Force by an erratic, nameless POTUS with an itchy finger on Twitter. (Netflix)

Two years later, however, amid the wreckage of a failed pandemic response that in three months cost America 100,000 lives and 40 million jobs, it’s harder to laugh at this space force offers: bewildering tonal dissonance, flimsy characters, and an unresolved subplot that, by the end of the 10th episode, was the only thing I was still half interested in. Daniels is famous for creating television shows with questionable first seasons that improve significantly over time; look Office Where Parks and recreation on Netflix to see series consciously modify themselves and their protagonists to make them more appealing. But with space force, there’s not much imaginable that could make the show enjoyable to watch (except maybe an election). The joke is not to we; this East we. Unnecessary wars, corporate scamming, the sassiness of fast food brands on Twitter – the ugly, rotten aspects of modern life are served up here like soggy punchlines, not caustic enough to really burn like dark humor , and not seductive enough to simply enjoy .

In the first episode, Mark Naird (Carell) is a starchy general who receives his fourth star and hopes to be promoted to head the Air Force, when he is instead tasked with leading the new Space Force by a POTUS. erratic and nameless with an itch. Twitter finger. (“Boots on the moon by 2024” is the founding mission, though the president accidentally confuses it with “boobs.”) Naird, who makes his bed at night when he gets up to use the bathroom and walks rather than walks, is dismayed by the new gig, but not as much as his family. A year later, he vies for the launch of a $6 billion rocket from his new top-secret base, while his wife, Maggie (disgracefully neglected Lisa Kudrow), serves a 40-year prison sentence for a unspecified crime, and her teenage daughter, Erin (Diana Silvers of Library), is isolated and resentful.

space forceThe insistent but half-shot focus on Naird’s family is odd, as it seems to involve dramatic ambitions, even a kind of sentimentality, that are not otherwise remotely realized. There’s no room for that kind of character work and emotional engagement in a comedy otherwise dedicated to the futility of American power. Jokes are thick, fast, and weak: bombing things is the default response to diplomatic snafus; the “American boots” on the moon are made in Mexico; the ships are equipped with purely decorative assault rifles so that the manufacturers can claim to have, as one character puts it, “the official Space Force gun for committing mass shootings on the moon”. By order of the White House, a rocket is sent into orbit with a dog and a chimpanzee on board, with the aim of creating cute viral videos. The president is in the pocket of the Russians. The Appropriations Committee is reluctant to fund medical research on rats to create new antibiotics, but doles out the money whenever someone mentions two simple words: “US Defense.”

John Malkovich (left), the Space Force’s dismissive chief scientist, is the best reason to watch space force. (Netflix)

The current state of the real-world culture war is summed up in the ongoing conflict between two characters: Carell’s Naird and John Malkovich’s Dr. a knit tie which is the intellectual yin. to the impulsive and reactive yang of Naird. (“Okay, so we’re going into battle and you’re dressed like Annie Hall,” Naird sneers as he and Mallory prepare for a busy, highly competitive game of Space Flag that will test suits designed by competing defense contractors. .) Malkovich, who beams with disdain everywhere, is the best reason to watch space force, and his character’s evolving relationship with Naird is the closest the series has come to an arc. Otherwise, every bold name on the supporting cast list feels wasted: Noah Emmerich as the intimidating and lecherous Air Force chief, Fred Willard (in his final role) as Naird’s deteriorating father, Jane Lynch as the smart-mouthed head of the Navy, Kaitlin Olson as a tech titan whose empire is built on scams and a rocket that fuels the color of rosé.

Perhaps at a different time, the show’s humor would have landed better, or at least less shocking. it wouldn’t have done space force a fully crafted show, or an insightful show, but Carell’s buffoonish likability might have won over some fans. As it stands, a series so defined by poking fun at a uniquely American strain of stupidity is hard to stomach at this particular time. The ongoing battle between science and emphasis is too charged; the cost of placing inexperienced and unchecked incompetents in positions where lives are at stake is too high. I couldn’t laugh when a wide-eyed young rookie told Erin he was reading to impress her, only to roll out a list of conspiracy theories about Jeffrey Epstein and the Queen of England that he gleaned from the internet. Nor could I remotely appreciate a series that continually nods to Maggie’s stark whiteness in prison. In the real world, idiocy is definitely winning right now. There’s no consolation to be found in a comedy about that.