Not the 'Space Force' We Expected, But Maybe the One We Deserve

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Steve Carell and John Malkovich star in "Space Force." (Netflix)

"Space Force" isn't "The Office in Outer Space" show that the internet expected. Steve Carell has already proven he can play oblivious Michael Scott, and he wanted to do something else this time.

If anyone was paying attention, we all might have noticed that "Space Force" was created by Steve Carell and Greg Daniels, the producer responsible for NBC's "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation." It's not just Daniels' show, and Carell may have been the driving creative force behind the lead character on the show, which both admit was based on a pitch from Netflix to them instead of vice versa.

Carell plays Gen. Mark R. Naird, who is basically a decent guy. He's not bad at his job, or at least he's as good at his job as the other generals who are running the other five four branches of the military. ("Space Force" never passes up a shot at making a Coast Guard joke.)

He has a grudgingly respectful working relationship with his head scientist, Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich, thankfully dialing it down from some of his overheated recent performances); a rocky-yet-loving relationship with daughter Erin (Diana Silvers); and a surprisingly complicated marriage with wife Maggie (Lisa Kudrow).

There's plenty of silliness from the supporting characters. Noah Emmerich ("The Americans") is Air Force chief Gen. Kick Grabaston, Naird's former boss and chief nemesis. The late Fred Willard is Naird's aging dad, struggling with fading mental capacity and calling his son and granddaughter at inopportune moments.

Kaitlin Olsen ("It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia") shows up as Edison Jaymes, a billionaire tech huckster who's half Elon Musk, half Elizabeth Holmes from Theranos. Ben Schwartz, fresh off "Sonic the Hedgehog," is the idiot social media manager F. Tony Scarapiducci. The great character actor Don Lake ("Best in Show" and all the other Christopher Guest movies) is one-star Gen. Brad Gregory, Naird's clueless assistant, who once rescued his boss from a burning plane.

Ginger Gonzaga plays a New York member of Congress known as "AYC," who's no fan of expenditures for the militarization of space. If a certain politician's career continues to rise, Gonzaga will be able to make a good living satirizing her career. Tawny Newsome is the helicopter pilot who becomes the commander of a moon mission, and Jimmy O. Yang is the scientist who has her back.

There's also a running gag, with the Space Force being subjected to the whims of the tweeter-in-chief, a rather mercurial leader who may or may not bear some resemblance to the current president. Anyone looking for a savage takedown will be disappointed by the jokes, and devoted followers will be outraged.

Of course, the Twitter jokes would've had a chance to land better a couple of weeks ago. This hardly seems like the day to launch a show whose central premise is based on presidential tweets.

China is cast as our space enemy here, and it's a formidable foe. Any more detail would veer into spoiler territory, so we'll leave it there.

Unfortunately, there are only 10 episodes here, and there's enough plot for at least a full network season of 22 episodes. Sometimes, the show feels like it's communicating in shorthand, with huge chunks of time and motivation missing from the onscreen story. If everyone watches this first series, maybe the team will slow things down in future seasons and the characters will have a chance to breathe a bit more.

The first season ends on a cliffhanger involving military action on the moon. It's a pretty safe bet to expect season two sometime next year, even if none of us can quite imagine what the real Space Force or the real world might look like by then.

Warning: The content would be family-friendly if not for the profanity. There's so much profanity.

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