The first season of Space Force, the new comedy series from The Office duo Steve Carell and Greg Daniels, arrived on Netflix yesterday after months of hype.
The streaming service invested a heck of a lot of money in the show, and were clearly hoping some of that old Office magic would rub off, but sadly, the reviews so far are not exactly stellar.
Space Force stars Carell as Air Force General Mark Naird, who moves his family to a secret base in Colorado, to head up the newest and most chaotic branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The all-star cast also includes the likes of John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz and Lisa Kudrow, as well as comedy legend Fred Willard, in his last ever role as Naird’s ailing dad.
Daniels also wrote and created Parks & Recreation and King Of The Hill, so he knows his way around a sitcom, but Space Force is sitting on a “mixed or average” Metacritic score of 47.
Why is it proving to be such a critical misfire?
Space Force was originally conceived when Netflix heard about Donald Trump‘s plan to start an independent space-based branch of the military, and decided there could be a sitcom in it.
They threw money at Carell and Daniels to develop the idea, but Judy Berman of Time says that the pair never quite figured it out. She calls the result:
“… exactly what you’d expect from a show conceived around a conference table, then executed by two network TV veterans with a budget befitting their track record but no personal connection to the premise.”
Kristen Baldwin of EW says that the series steers consciously away from real-world politics, and lacks any real satirical bite as a result, writing:
“In the run-up to the show’s launch, both Daniels and Carell have insisted that they’re not interested in taking sides in Space Force, which is entirely their prerogative. But in their efforts to remain apolitical, Daniels and Carell have failed to give their series any discernible point of view, delivering instead an innocuous and startlingly unfunny sitcom about military bureaucracy.”
Jen Cheney of New York Magazine praised the show’s supporting cast, which includes Jane Lynch and Diedrich Bader, but said Carell’s General Naird feels too stiff:
“[As] written, the character is the straightest of straight men; it seems like Carell’s skills could have been put to better use if Naird were hiding at least a couple of eccentricities beneath his formal dress coat.”
Willa Paskin of Slate agrees that Naird is an unlikeable character, who is lacking in the considerable charm that Carell brought to his portrayal of Michael Scott on The Office.
Kevin Fallon of The Daily Beast was slightly more fond of Naird, but agreed that the show lacks an overall comedic bite, saying:
“Space Force is largely unfunny, has no sense of perspective or tone, and, outside of a pleasant, somewhat adorable Odd Couple friendship between Carell and Malkovich’s characters, offers little to warrant a recommendation.”
There appears to be a consensus that the show starts to pick up around the mid-point of its ten episodes, with Dan Fienberg of The Washington Post noting:
“Space Force just isn’t close to consistent – especially in the first half of the season, the misses outweigh the hits – and even as it settles into itself a little more, it’s hard to buy all the eventual smoothing out of characters and plot lines from that choppy beginning.”
In one of the more positive reviews, Ben Travers of Indiewire said that despite some missed opportunities and under-developed characters, the show feels like it was “made with joy”, and has the potential to refine itself into something better if it comes back for another season.
Adam Chitwood of Collider also said that despite a rough start, he felt “endeared” to the ensemble by the end, and feels invested in what happens next.
Many pointed out that The Office and Parks & Recreation didn’t really find their feet until their second seasons, so there’s every chance Space Force could be the same. All ten episodes of season one are streaming now on Netflix, so you can give it a watch and decide for yourself.