You can’t go three minutes on the internet without seeing someone reference the Office US.
So, when news came through that show creator Greg Daniels, and Steve Carrell were reuniting for a new workplace sitcom, it seemed like a slam dunk.
Based on the real life Space Force, a new branch of the American government that sounds like something out of Starship Troopers or Halo, the premise seemed ripe for potential.
However, in the time the real life American government only have a flag to show for their efforts, Netflix has managed to cobble together a sitcom that has one good joke per episode.
Space Force was so desperate to beat the real thing to the punch it forgot the jokes along the way.
The talent involved in Space Force is legitimately impressive; Paddington director Paul King directs the show’s pilot, and stars like John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, and Lisa Kudrow are among the shows main roster of characters, but the show never quite clicks into place like you’d expect.
To use a sports metaphor, Space Force is similar to Manchester United post-Ferguson; a lot of money was thrown at it, and while there’s no denying the star power, there’s not a whole pile to show for it.
This is systematic of show creator Greg Daniels’ career; readers with a long memory may recall the first season of the Office US not being any great shakes, along with his other beloved sitcom, Parks and Recreation taking a while before gelling.
To put it bluntly, there’s not really anything within the first season that indicates that Space Force will match the cultural ubiquity of Daniels’ other projects.
That isn’t to say there aren’t some bright spots; the cast really does the best with what they are given, with a great subs bench possessing the likes of Jane Lynch, Chris Gethard, Patrick Warburton, Jimmy O. Yang, Don Lake or the late, great Fred Willard to call upon to add some spice to a scene.
The show has an inherently political premise (Space Force was established in 2019 under the Trump administration) and the only episode where the show matches up with the absurdity of the concept is an episode where Carrell is brought in front of a congressional hearing to defend the cost of the project.
A fairly spot-on parody of congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez grills Carrell about the cost of the project as she points out her constituents are in poverty, and questions whether Space Force funds could be used elsewhere.
Carrell, in a fully locked-in performance, gives an impassioned speech explaining that space is hard, and that the cost is justified as there is only one earth; only one earth that supplies can be sent from, and we need to take care of it.
For what is ostensibly a sitcom to take a turn into an Aaron Sorkin show for a moment was a strange turn, but at least it was something to write home about.
Sadly, that’s the only moment in 10 episodes where the show justifies its premise.
Otherwise, the show is just a generic, by-the-numbers workplace comedy that happens to have a few Oscar nominees in the cast, and money for a visual effects budget.
Space Force is like seeing Steve Nicks play with a Fleetwood Mac tribute band; you’ve seen them do better work before, but you’d have to wonder why a legend is doing a bad impression of themselves.