Editor’s note: With movie theaters closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, Micheal Compton’s reviews will focus on films available for streaming or on demand.
"Space Force" reunites Greg Daniels, the creator of the American version of "The Office" and that series star Steve Carell.
It's a reunion that plenty will welcome, but be advised approach the first season of this Netflix series with tempered expectations. "Space Force" may seem like a home run on paper - with Carell leading a loaded cast and a ripped from the headlines premise - but the laughs don't exactly blast off. Instead it's a series that seems to still be finding its way in the first season, battling through the growing pains while showing some glimpses of what it could (and should) be going forward.
Carell stars as general Mark R. Naird, selected by the president to lead the newly formed Space Force. Naird agrees, uprooting his family (Lisa Kudrow as his wife Maggie and Diana Silvers as his high-strung teenage daughter Erin) to a remote Colorado base where he tries to balance his personal life and professional life.
"Space Force" will likely draw comparisons to "The Office," with Carell's work here sure to be compared to Michael Scott, but it reminded me more of Daniels other NBC comedy "Parks and Recreation." Like that series, "Space Force" is at its best when it gives the supporting cast time to shine.
The biggest laughs come from John Malkovich as Naird's right-hand man, Dr. Adrian Mallory - who is there to put a little science into the general's decisions. Their clashes are the highlights of season one, with Carell and Malkovich effectively playing off each other.
"Space Force" gets some other things right too. Ben Schwartz basically does a variation his Jean-Ralphio character from "Parks and Recreation" as Space Force's media advisor, while the late Fred Willard provides a few bittersweet moments as Naird's absent minded father.
A subplot involving a young doctor (Jimmy O. Yang) and an aspiring astronaut (Tawny Newsome) provides some fun moments, while Don Lake nearly steals every scene he is in as Naird's wise-cracking secretary.
But there is still a lot for "Space Force" to work through. A lot of the home life doesn't work quite as well as intended, with Kudrow's character never quite meshing in the first season, while attempts at satirizing the current political climate tends to grind episodes to a halt.
The result is a season that feels like Daniels and Carell are still trying to find their way. There is enough in season one to at least merit a season two, but the good will won't likely last unless there is some improvement.
Hopefully "Space Force" can follow in the footsteps of "The Office," and learn from its early mistakes to create something a little more memorable.