Space Force (2020) is a new limited series on Netflix, created by Greg Daniels (The Office) and Steve Carell (Anchorman). Carell stars as General Naird, newly ordained leader of the sixth branch of the military, the U.S. Space Force. Much like the real Space Force, this show doesn’t need to exist, but it’s still pretty funny. Carell joins a star-studded cast with Tawny Newsome (Superstore), Lisa Kudrow (Friends), and Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation).

Though Carell is the captain of this dumb ship, it’s John Malkovich (The New Pope) who steals the show. Malkovich plays Dr. Adrian Mallory, the misanthropic chief scientist who makes this ridiculous show worth watching. Mallory has great lines like, “I would like to know why my science budget pales in comparison to his orgy of death.”

Dr. Mallory is the perfect contrast to Captain Naird’s well-meaning, military persona. As a researcher who is constantly infuriated by the growing anti-intellectualist culture of America, Mallory is my spirit animal. While the U.S. continues to plunge to last place in education and healthcare, Dr. Mallory’s soul is crushed by the constantly inflating military budget.

Another strength is Carell’s ability to let other comedians take the spotlight. Carell doesn’t give his character a single comedic line of dialogue the entire show. This choice allows other comedians to shine. Like Ben Schwartz, who plays a douchey millennial social media manager aptly named Fuck Tony. Schwartz, who is the worst part of Parks and Rec and the third-best character in Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) has an amazing performance in Space Force.

F. Tony is a hilarious addition to the mostly middle-aged Boomers that populate the scenes. As the social media manager, Schwartz plays the character like a millennial Vince Vaughn. F. Tony is that douchey guy we all know from college. The one who dropped out of Dartmouth and landed a six-figure job because his dad invented toaster strudel.

Fuck Tony has some great scenes like trying to reassure the First Lady’s Chief of Staff that FLOTUS is both respected and admired. It’s great to see that Ben Schwartz can be funny, he just needed talented writers to harness his douchebro qualities into something watchable. He’s got great catchphrases like, “You gotta embrace to get those dollars for space.”

Another strength of the show is the creators’ ability to create a show so real, that people are actually confusing it with the real Space Force. As I write this, Netflix and the Space Force (the very real new military branch) are already at war. Here’s an actual headline that exists, because, well, 2020: “US Space Force Could Lose Trademark to Netflix Series.”

When the real Space Force launched, someone forgot to trademark the name (or officially launch it as a military branch). So while the Netflix Space Force, arrived on set second, it was first to trademark the name. The real Space Force has a twitter account (@SpaceForceDoD) and a website, but they don’t actually have an infrastructure or well, anything else.

Right now, the Space Force show’s twitter account (@realspaceforce) looks a hell of a lot more professional than the military branch. It looks so real that many people have trouble telling the two accounts apart. In a hilariously 2020 moment, the military Space Force even retweeted the Netflix Space Force. Which one is the real Space Force? Look at their tweets, can you tell?

While the show isn’t perfect, it’s not the epic failure that the elitist film critics would have you believe. Knowing this show came from Greg Daniels prepared me for its comedic mediocrity. Daniels made one of the greatest shows of all time, Parks and Recreation, but he’s also the guy who made The Office. There’s only one main problem with the show: female characterization.

Lisa Kudrow’s character, Mrs. Naird adds nothing to the story. The way Carell’s character is written, General Naird seems more like a depressed single dad. Picture a middle-aged white guy with grey hair, dancing in the back of his daughter’s Tik-Tok video in feeble attempts to patch their already dead relationship. Naird is out of touch, pathetic, and doesn’t even get a single laugh the entire show.

Mrs. Naird (Kudrow), who is General Naird’s wife, doesn’t drive the story forward at all. It’s as if Space Force was written and ready to air, then Lisa Kudrow called last minute and demanded to be added to the show. Mrs. Naird is in prison (they forget to say why) and is apparently a lesbian (they forget that character arc) and we’re supposed to accept these blatant omissions.

While we can’t expect to straight dudes to effectively write a LGBTQ+ character, the question is why try? Having a “gay character” only through sexuality, who doesn’t get an actual relationship with a same-sex partner is a popular TV trope. It’s not easy to write a gay character when you’re straight, but if you can’t find a gay writer in Hollywood in 2020, are you really looking? The other female characters are just as ad hoc and their only conflicts are in relation to men.

Female characterization aside, Space Force is a pretty fun show. It’s understandable that this show isn’t for everyone. If you can’t watch the news and spend every night crying in bed watching old clips of Obama speeches, this show may not be for you. Watching this show means acknowledging that “he who shall not be named” is President. It means facing the reality that our U.S. Postal service budget was gutted to build a Space Force (which we don’t need).

But if you’re a fan of The Office or old-school Anchorman Carell, you’ll get a kick out of the show. The enlightened film critics of 2020 will pan this show, as intelligent satire fails to reach those who need it most. Note that Space Force is real and its slogan actually is, “Maybe your purpose on this planet, isn’t on this planet.” This show is no Citizen Kane, but that’s okay. Space Force gives us five hours of comedy, where we can fantasize about a life that doesn’t so closely resemble hell.

For more laughs, visit the real Space Force website.

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