9:15 am EDT, May 29, 2020

‘Space Force’ review: It’s not ‘The Office,’ but that doesn’t mean it’s not great

No, Netflix’s Space Force is not “The Office in space,” but it still has a ton to offer.

After years of missing the over-the-top funny yet miraculously heartfelt workplace antics of Michael Scott and the rest of The Office characters, fans were understandably thrilled when they heard about Space Force, a new workplace comedy starring Steve Carell and created by Greg Daniels.

I mean, The Office in space? Following a company that is arguably even more trivial than a small paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania? How could we not sign up to see that. At long last, the dream team that made us laugh and cry for so many seasons of paper slinging fun was back together.

Unfortunately, it’s exactly that line of thinking that will probably make fans of The Office hate Space Force. As much as fans wanted it, Space Force is not, in fact, The Office in space. Not at all. Not even a tiny bit. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not equally ridiculously funny and wonderfully heartfelt.

I stress this fact because going into Space Force searching for The Office is a recipe for failure. All you’ll be able to see is how it’s not like the show you already know and love. You’ll cling on to the small comparisons you can make, which will eventually come up empty. If you go into this show looking for something else, you’ll miss the unique magic that Space Force has to offer.

space force, steve carell, mark naird

Carell’s General Mark Naird is a truly fascinating lead for Space Force. As the commander of the newly instated Space Force (I’ll apologize now for offending anyone with inappropriate use of military titles), he’s thrown into some crazy situations and asked to solve them fast and forcefully. He does so hilariously, but with enough humanity that will make you really root for him.

Naird plays as the straight man opposite the wildly funny circumstances of his office and some of the more aggressive jokers that he’s faced with in each episode. A military man through and through, he takes his station incredibly seriously, which helps to lend much needed stakes to some of Space Force’s more out of this world plot lines.

Related: Space Force trailer has Steve Carell in charge of Netflix’s newest comedy

The serious nature of his character also sets the stage for interesting discussions about PTSD, toxic masculinity, and the idea of following orders blindly. Naird is dynamic and likable enough to drive these vehicles with both humor and nuance. While these topics were only touched on in Space Force season 1, the potential for deeper discussions in future seasons is rife.

One thing that Space Force and The Office do have in common is a fantastic cast. Steve Carell obviously shines at the helm, but his supporting cast warrants just as much investment and yields just as many laughs.

John Malkovich is perhaps the standout as Dr. Adrian Mallory, the chief scientist of the Space Force. His brazen confidence and commitment to his craft plays perfectly against Naird, making them an unlikely duo. They’re both men of integrity, but they could not display that trait in a more different manner. Watching them earn each other’s respect throughout the season serves as an emotional crux, and it’s definitely a bromance worth watching!

Other highlights include Lisa Kudrow as Mark’s wife, Maggie, and Diana Silver as his daughter, Erin. They’re both amazing and funny characters in their own right, but their family dynamic is essential to the show and the humanity of Carell’s character. You really can’t watch a man struggle to effectively parent a teenager without developing some sympathy for the guy.

Erin also adds a lot to Space Force for younger audiences. She’s a teenager who’s trying to navigate the complex inner workings of her new home, from friends, to boys, to soft-serve ice cream. She balances the show out with a younger and surprisingly more grounded humor, while playing an important emotional role as she vies to beat out her dad’s job for his attention.

Parks and Rec fans will be happy to see Ben Schwartz’s F. Tony, who is essentially Jean Ralphio in a different uniform, and Silicon Valley fans will be pleased to recognize Jimmy O. Yang as Dr. Chan. Don’t worry though, Dr. Chan is infinitely more likable than Jian Yang, probably a lot smarter, and without the evil mastermind mode.

I’d be remiss to talk about the characters of Space Force without mentioning Tawny Newsome’s Angela Ali, who will probably be a lot of people’s favorite character. She’s a lot like Naird in that she takes her job very seriously, but to see a young, black woman go through the same experience lends itself to an entirely different set of fascinating stories.

Angela is also just an extremely good natured character and it’s kind of a treat to watch her interact with anyone. She’s strong, kind, funny, self-aware, and has dreams that fans can rally around. I can only imagine that she’d become an even bigger and more dynamic character in future seasons of Space Force, and I really can’t wait to see that.

Overall, Space Force is a delightful new comedy with just the right amount of heart, real world resonance, and political satire. If you get on board with what the show’s trying to do, I promise it will make you laugh and care deeply for its characters.

I think one of the marks of a great comedy is that it can maintain stakes even in the most over-the-top circumstances, and Space Force does that beautifully. This show will make you root for its ridiculous victories so hard, you might even be a little confused and concerned by it.

I will stress again, please try to go into this show with a blank slate. Space Force is not The Office, but it still has so much to offer. The show is packed to the brim with great characters and comedy punches, and will have you invested from episode one. After launching a strong first season, Space Force can only go up from here. I urge you to get on board!

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