News

Space Force First Reviews: Steve Carell and John Malkovich Struggle To Make Netflix's New Workplace Comedy Soar

Critics say the leads shine, and the premise has great potential, but the jokes don't always land and the show doesn't quite know what it wants to be.

by | May 26, 2020 | Comments

Space Force marks the highly-anticipated reunion of The Office alums Greg Daniels and Steve Carell. Carell, who co-created the series with Daniels, plays four-star General Mark R. Naird, who leads the newly-minted sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Services — a concept directly inspired by Donald Trump’s very-real announcement to have American boots back on the moon by 2024. John Malkovich’s Dr. Adrian Mallory is Naird’s unlikely partner, offering unwelcome scientific insight during every step of the mission. According to the first reviews of the series, the timely comedy struggles to connect with audiences and many of the jokes fall flat, but the show’s two leads deliver the goods in bringing their characters to life.

Here’s what critics are saying about Season 1 of Space Force:


Steve Carell and John Malkovich have strong comedic chemistry

But where the show really strikes a chord is in the more heartfelt, charming moments – particularly between Carrell’s regimented veteran Naird and Malkovich’s stubborn head scientist Dr. Adrian Mallory. —Nicola Austin, We Have a Hulk

Carell remains likable and charismatic, even if his gravelly voice as Mark sounds a bit forced, and he and Malkovich (underrated for his comedic abilities) have entertaining chemistry. — Josh Bell, CBR

And the show comes to life most when we get to watch Carell and Malkovich go head-to-head as military determination clashes with scientific limitations. — Nola Ojomu, Metro

Together, Carell and Malkovich forge a charismatic pair that could carry even more episodes than they already do, while Malkovich’s Dr. Mallory could certainly stand for more development on his own. — Ben Travers, IndieWire

Carell and Malkovich make a great comedic duo! — Grace Randolph, Beyond the Trailer


Steve Carell in Space Force
(Photo by Aaron Epstein/Netflix)

Carell does his best to distance himself from Michael Scott

Carell is good playing Naird as a straight-laced military man, who rigidly adheres to his principles even when they make him utterly depressed. After a long day on the job, he’s a good dad, who makes time to help his daughter with her math homework.— Jonathan W. Hickman, The Newnan Times-Herald

Mark Naird isn’t exactly Michael Scott 2.0. He has a wife, Maggie (Lisa Kudrow in a part-time role), a teenage daughter, Erin (Diana Silvers), and is more aggressive and confident than Michael ever was. He’s a plausibly orthodox military man; when Maggie complains that he’s too rigid in his thinking, he insists, “I can be flexible if I’m ordered to be.” But the way Naird stalks through most of the episodes as a defiantly ignorant, periodically bigoted a–hole feels unfortunately very reminiscent of that first Office season when Michael was unbearable. — Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone

Carrell plays General Mark R. Naird like a puffed-up, military-issue Michael Scott — complete with earnest love for his workmates and an inability to recognise the error of his ways until it’s too late. —Brian Lloyd, entertainment.ie


Unfortunately, the jokes fail to connect 

But it might be easier to listen to than most of the jokes. Space Force is inexplicably unfunny, a black hole for laughter, with stretches of bombs lasting minutes, not just because the gags rarely work, but because there aren’t that many jokes in the first place. It feels like the first draft of a comedy before the jokes were put in. — Tim Surette, TV Guide

The jokes themselves are also scarce, and when they do show up, they can be painfully all over the place. — Sean Price, The Spool

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. — Kristen Baldwin, EW

Put a different way, for Space Force to work, Carell and Daniels — as capable a pair of satirists as we have (see The Office) — would need to come with their humorous focus and targets incredibly well honed. Through the first season, despite fitful highlights, that just isn’t there. — Daniel Fienberg, THR

Here’s a comedy for people either desperate for new Office content, or who still find “covfefe” funny. —Blake Goble, Consequence of Sound


Ben Schwartz in Space Force
(Photo by Aaron Epstein/Netflix)

Political satire or surreal comedy — the show struggles to find its tone

At certain points it feels like biting satire, others complete farce. Sometimes the show is super silly and surreal, and other times it feels like a straight comedy. That inconsistent tone makes it so that you never know what you’re watching or what you’ll get from scene to scene, episode to episode. — Michael Walsh, Nerdist

The series, of course, isn’t going to come without having some contemporary references. On the political side, there are clear-as-day references to Senator Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Ortez. Though for whatever reason, the Schumer-esque character is a congressman rather than a senator. Instead of AOC, we have AYC (Ginger Gonzaga) aka Angry Young Congresswoman.— Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

Admittedly, the parodies are a little too on-the-nose at times, removing the suspension of reality some might expect while they put on a movie or TV series. Even then, that’s something that speaks volumes to the world we live in, rather than to the quality of the programming itself. — Adam Barnhardt, Comic Book

Its pieces of political satire are both too literal (as when a young liberal congresswoman named “Anabela Ysidro-Campos,” played by Ginger Gonzaga, gives Space Force’s hell in a hearing that evokes an SNL cold open) and too dated (Mark’s annoying communications manager, played by Ben Schwartz, is “Tony Scarapiducci,” or more colloquially, “F— Tony” as in “F—Jerry,” I guess?). — Caroline Framke, Variety


The ensemble cast is spectacular

And their team is ensemble gold: Don Lake as Naird’s overly eager-to-please assistant, Jimmy O. Yang (Silicon Valley) as Mallory’s unflappable No. 2 and Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation) as the smarmiest of media managers. […] Maybe the best reason to enlist in Space Force: the posthumous performance of Fred Willard in one of his last TV roles as Naird’s lovingly befuddled dad, a grace note for an earnestly amusing show that isn’t afraid to wear its heart on its star-spangled sleeve. — Matt Roush, TV Insider

Ben Schwartz , whom many will remember for his cheeky Jean-Ralphio in Parks and Recreation, is still a comic relief at all times. — Mikel Zorrilla, Espinof

Oh, and every single time the Armed Forces 4-Star Generals meet, you are sure to be giggling in your seat. It is comprised of greats like Jane Lynch and Patrick Warburton and the dry humor is basically a masterpiece. Trust me. Whenever they showed the room, I knew it was about to be a hilarious scene.

I have to mention others like Tawny Newsome, Fred Willard (RIP), and Jimmy O. Yang. Each of them bring their own elements to the show. You know you have a good show on your hands when the supporting characters make you laugh just as hard as the main characters. In fact, Steve Carell almost plays the straight man in this one — almost. — Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

Space Force holds an incredible cast, with the likes of Ben Schwartz (now of Sonic the Hedgehog fame) and Lisa Kudrow, and even the late Fred Willard contributing to its star-studded comedic roster. — Andrew Dex, Starburst


Steve Carell and cast in Space Force
(Photo by Aaron Epstein/Netflix)

With a little finessing, Space Force could blossom into something great

This is one show that is easy to binge-watch and should be renewed for a second season at a minimum, if not longer. Netflix and Carrell have another hit on their hands that is enjoyable and entertaining, especially if they keep Malkovich as part of the cast. —Allison Skornick-Rose, Flick Direct

Still, Space Force comes at a time when audiences could use a bit of laughter and self-care. Mostly, the comedy is harmless and skates by on the charm of its ensemble cast (Don Lake deserves a shout-out for playing assistant Brad). Even if it doesn’t quite achieve the astronomical heights suggested by its wacky premise, there’s enough fuel in the tank to help the inaugural season coast on fumes. —Nate Adams, The Only Critic

Space Force maximizes the absurdity, turning this patently terrible situation into one in which laughter comes as a kind of release valve from a huge, churning sea of frustration.
In other words, the series is rather well-suited to the current moment. —Sonia Saraiya, Vanity Fair

#1
Adjusted Score: 44.882%
Critics Consensus: An all-star cast and blockbuster-worthy special effects aren't enough to keep Space Force's uneven blend of earnestness and satire from spinning quickly out of comedic orbit.
Synopsis: A decorated pilot with dreams of running the Air Force, four-star general Mark R. Naird (Steve Carell) is thrown for... [More]

Tag Cloud

72 Emmy Awards Country robots werewolf disaster Britbox slashers Marvel Studios Shudder Dark Horse Comics Mary Poppins Returns tv talk E3 Western streaming Esquire Film concert book SDCC Animation YA PaleyFest Food Network Fox News reboot versus Fall TV Creative Arts Emmys Endgame medical drama Martial Arts richard e. Grant dragons cancelled screen actors guild batman Watching Series Extras animated Hallmark Christmas movies SundanceTV dogs comiccon Schedule USA Network Mystery Toys Universal FXX Rom-Com Winter TV TBS Anna Paquin 2020 reviews Thanksgiving 45 Rocky Year in Review harry potter Nat Geo Mudbound Freeform nbcuniversal Travel Channel Pixar miniseries mutant YouTube Premium aliens PBS die hard witnail latino sports stoner natural history war Turner Classic Movies Netflix Christmas movies Rock 24 frames binge social media Music Cartoon Network The Arrangement classics Comic Book golden globes Premiere Dates Avengers psychological thriller TCA Winter 2020 Pop TV Amazon Studios Reality Competition TCA 2017 NBC singing competition transformers Teen independent spy thriller Television Critics Association Captain marvel Sci-Fi 007 Amazon Holiday all-time screenings TNT Turner Red Carpet jamie lee curtis adventure Lifetime Christmas movies Amazon Prime DGA Columbia Pictures sitcom Christmas A24 Arrowverse 71st Emmy Awards child's play TLC DC streaming service 2019 crime thriller technology Cosplay cooking CBS All Access crossover Musicals parents BET Awards Sundance TV game of thrones finale zombie asian-american CMT Set visit Apple American Society of Cinematographers Paramount Network docudrama best DC Universe Showtime HBO Max Star Wars spider-man BBC America kids unscripted VH1 worst crime drama cartoon USA PlayStation New York Comic Con 21st Century Fox facebook cars Calendar based on movie BBC cats TruTV canceled TV shows The Witch Stephen King See It Skip It Infographic toy story Trivia Reality Pet Sematary 2017 MSNBC Sundance blaxploitation X-Men Family Binge Guide Marvel hollywood Star Trek universal monsters MCU TCA canceled YouTube cancelled TV series DC Comics scary movies true crime Television Academy Acorn TV Marathons politics psycho sag awards 2018 TV comedies CW Seed dark Trophy Talk cancelled TV shows zombies Bravo Fantasy festivals National Geographic Photos President Countdown documentaries Pride Month First Reviews Film Festival news HBO Go VICE 20th Century Fox Sneak Peek adaptation Black History Month casting rotten Logo GLAAD ABC Walt Disney Pictures dceu Biopics directors TCM what to watch Summer boxoffice IFC Films AMC Black Mirror children's TV Pirates Character Guide LGBT Super Bowl LGBTQ HBO television Holidays award winner quibi comics ESPN nature Mindy Kaling supernatural GoT Discovery Channel Spring TV 2016 BAFTA a nightmare on elm street Apple TV+ Disney+ Disney Plus TV renewals cults twilight Hallmark superhero E! spain First Look FX Crackle SXSW Nickelodeon Action thriller renewed TV shows Paramount Starz Podcast Hear Us Out Syfy Women's History Month 2015 Awards The Purge doctor who Trailer obituary Disney streaming service Polls and Games Grammys romance space ratings Vudu sequel Winners WGN stop motion Disney Peacock cinemax OneApp mission: impossible chucky Comics on TV theme song dramedy video Tarantino Comedy Oscars series game show cops Valentine's Day Drama Chilling Adventures of Sabrina spanish language The CW Musical Box Office APB Ellie Kemper christmas movies joker biography Horror breaking bad A&E Crunchyroll Interview FX on Hulu science fiction Academy Awards Lionsgate Epix Tumblr Election south america Netflix spinoff Lifetime Awards Tour video on demand CBS Video Games Chernobyl Masterpiece FOX Cannes Marvel Television San Diego Comic-Con serial killer cancelled television Rocketman Tomatazos Kids & Family period drama BET police drama NYCC Ghostbusters Writers Guild of America composers Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt name the review El Rey Disney Channel GIFs foreign Mary poppins Heroines History critics Hulu ABC Family IFC romantic comedy Quiz Lucasfilm franchise Song of Ice and Fire sequels Mary Tyler Moore discovery TIFF Superheroe 4/20 films teaser hispanic Spectrum Originals Funimation dc RT History Opinion RT21 Shondaland emmy awards Certified Fresh revenge zero dark thirty satire anime anthology Spike Brie Larson travel blockbuster justice league rotten movies we love VOD Emmy Nominations criterion ITV indie TCA Awards Warner Bros. Emmys hist BBC One Sundance Now Adult Swim documentary vampires mockumentary diversity Ovation laika CNN Amazon Prime Video Superheroes elevated horror OWN fast and furious Best and Worst Comedy Central Baby Yoda Tubi WarnerMedia Apple TV Plus Pop movie comic The Walking Dead halloween crime strong female leads YouTube Red ghosts political drama TV Land Disney Plus MTV talk show stand-up comedy indiana jones DirecTV Sony Pictures Nominations green book Elton John Classic Film historical drama movies free movies