Spoilers for Season 1 of Space Force
Space Force did not live up to the hype. Considering the creative team behind it, the cast, and the premise, it should have had a successful liftoff. Instead it never left the launch pad. But missions get delayed all the time, and the show has enough talent and promise that with some work it can still be great. Here’s what Space Force can do to become a hit in season two.
Pick a Comedic Tone
The single biggest issue with the show is that it doesn’t have any clue what kind of comedy it is. There are moments of smart political commentary, especially thanks to John Malkovich’s Dr. Adrian Mallory. He continuously points out the inherent issues with the military industrial complex. But there are also plenty of times when the show is so silly it feels too dumb to be an actual satire. They grabbed two untrained technicians, including Chris Gethard’s Eddie, to go to the moon a couple days later. That makes no sense.
The show’s inconsistent comedic voice and tone from scene-to-scene is jarring and makes the humor fall flat. The less sharp aspects make the smart components seem hollow, and the intelligent commentary makes the silly stuff feel too silly.
Space Force needs to decide if it’s a biting satire or a farce. Is it more of a straight workplace comedy, or a surreal intergalactic theater of the absurd?
Decide if General Mark Naird Is Competent or Not
Anyone who thinks an untrained monkey can suddenly execute a difficult engineering task in space is incorrect. They’re not someone who should be leading an entire space agency. Of course, anyone thrust into that role who doesn’t always defer to actual rocket scientists is too out of touch to lead a literal Space Force. But Steve Carell’s General Mark Naird also showed real signs of being a competent, measured leader throughout the first season. So which is it? Is he inept or the right man for the job?
The ever-changing intelligence and leadership of his character was among the biggest contributors to the show’s inconsistent comedic voice. Keeping his general competency level—whatever it is—consistent will go a long way to fixing the series’ biggest issue.
Is an Actual Space Force Dumb or Necessary?
“POTUS” does not exactly come across well on the show. The president and his administration are presented as petulant, unprepared, and incompetent. Not that anyone should have been surprised by that, since the entire premise of this comedy is based on the actual Space Force. This whole thing is supposed to be humorous because it’s based on a silly idea.
But the show ultimately said the president is right. In the show China destroys our satellites and tries to colonize the moon. A real Space Force doesn’t seem so wild under those absurd circumstances.
So which is it? Is this premise inherently silly or not? The show wanted to generate more outrageous scenarios to mine comedy, but either this sixth branch of the military is necessary or the president is out of line for creating it.
Lose the “Real-Life” Characters
Whether you love and support Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or despise her, AYC, the “angry young Congresswoman” on Space Force, is not funny. Neither is the Russian spy close to the president, the Congresswomen Pitosi (sigh), nor Kaitlin Olson’s character clearly based on uber-fraud Elizabeth Holmes. There was nothing clever or interesting about these direct parodies of current political figures, and they were part of another major problem for the show.
The President’s Incompetence Is Not Funny/The Show Is Too Timely
There’s nothing humorous about the leader of the free world being incompetent. It’s hard to laugh when he’s directing billions of taxpayers dollars towards soothing his own ego, or using the power of his office to endanger lives. That can work when a president is fictional. Or when a show is not (sometimes) presenting itself as timely political commentary. But it doesn’t work here. There’s nothing funny about the president. That was true three years ago. It’s really, really true right now.
The easiest thing the show can do to improve is cut the fat.Even funny scenes become a chore when dragged out, like when General Naird was communicating with the space monkey. A funny premise that should have lasted two minutes went on and on. Cutting eight minutes from each to go back to more traditional 22-minute installments could help them punch up the comedy and eliminate a lot of needless subplots and scenes. We’ll all be better off without seeing Erin Naird do laps around a prison ever again.
Free John Malkovich
Two things were true in Space Force‘s first season: John Malkovich was great and we have no idea why he was on the show. Few actors have ever been more overqualified for a television role than Malkovich is as Dr. Mallory. For most of the season he had little to do. He finally got a chance to shine more in the last few episodes, where he was predictably hilarious. But why cast him to spend most of his time as a comedic straight-man when he’s John Freaking Malkovich? Give him more.
There’s a lot of talent and money behind Space Force. We don’t want the show to be scrubbed entirely, but things needs to be fixed if it’s going to ever get off the ground.
Featured Image: Netflix