sat 11/07/2020

Space Force, Netflix review - fails to launch | reviews, news & interviews

Space Force, Netflix review - fails to launch

Space Force, Netflix review - fails to launch

Steve Carell's new sitcom is short on laughs

Steve Carell plays a four-star general given the task of creating the Space Force

Since Donald Trump's election as US President in 2016, I imagine satirists have slowly lost the will to live – as nothing they can write can outdo his buffoonery. But when Greg Daniels (creator of the American version of The Office) and Steve Carell (its star) announced they were inspired to write Space Force from one of his ideas, it augured well.

Trump never appears in Space Force, but his presence is felt in odd nods to the tweeting president, or his command to get “boots on the Moon by 2024”, or “boobs on the Moon", as the fictional president here tweets (but it could have been Trump, who knows?). Newly created four-star general Mark R Naird (Carell) is put in charge of getting the new project off the ground and over 10 episodes we see how that pans out, as all around him things go awry, personally and professionally.

As with the original US space programme (but not, interestingly,  the real-life equivalent today), money has not been spared on Space Force – CGI, lavish sets and locations (including a terrific Thunderbirds-like entrance when a mountainside opens up to reveal a tunnel to the secret military base where the project is housed) – giving a pleasing whiff of Dr Strangelove about the show. But seemingly little time or energy has been spent on writing a decent script, still less one with more than the occasional joke.

The show's creators are unafraid, however, to throw in any number of stereotypes – stuffed-shirt military types, nerdy scientists (particularly of Asian extraction), bumbling aides, brattish teenage daughter who's annoyed the family has been uprooted from Washington DC to Colorado. They rarely get to shine and what narrative drive there is comes from Naird's wish to create a lot of bangs with his bucks as he ignores his egocentric but wise chief scientist Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich), and tries to impress his superiors and show off to his internal military foes.

Space Force has a terrific cast – Malkovich is joined by Lisa Kudrow (underused and underwritten) as Naird's wife and Jane Lynch as the navy chief – but they have little to play with. There's the final appearance of Fred Willard as Naird's ailing father, who would surely agree it wasn't his best work, but then it isn't Carell's either. Naird, despite being a puffed-up man in uniform, is not dislikeable enough for us to enjoy seeing his life unravel, and the situations he gets himself into are too farcical for us to care about the outcomes.

What a shame; Daniels and Carell may have been aiming for the Moon, but this one has failed to launch.

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