Netflix’s new comedy Space Force arrived on Friday and was a big hit with viewers, quickly rising over the weekend to become the streaming service’s most popular title despite a lukewarm critical reception, beating out the likes of fantastic animated fantasy Avatar: The Last Airbender, Adam Sandler vehicle Uncut Gems, dark comedy Dead to Me and improving superhero series The Flash. And to date, it’s still the most popular thing on the platform.
With The Office being such an institution of American TV, the notion of a new workplace comedy from its creator and star was always going to attract interest, and the core concept has a great deal of potential to work with. Inspired by Trump’s narcissistic desire to militarize space, the series follows newly promoted four-star general Mark Naird (Steve Carell) as he’s placed in charge of the laughable new branch of the armed services and attempts to get it off the ground, both figuratively and literally.
It’s made most interesting by realizing straight away that mocking the dubious justification for the organization’s existence would be redundant, as the internet had exhausted all variations on the subject two days after the announcement was made. So the show instead delves into how such an operation might actually function (or, as is often the case in comedy, fail to do so).
It also helps that the comedy is largely apolitical, deriving humor from people’s eccentricities, exaggerations and foibles rather than portraying anyone as a partisan caricature, and while expies of real-life politicians make periodic appearances, they’re used to make a point rather than be directly ridiculed.
The core working relationship comes from Mark and his science advisor Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich), with the pair snarking at each other in ideological disagreement, but is revealed to be based on a mutual respect for the other’s knowledge and experience, while an oddball assortment of scientists, soldiers, civilians and family play roles in surreal yet plausible scenarios.
Of course, the instant success of Space Force might also be a reflection of the increasingly turbulent times in which we live and that sometimes, people just need something light-hearted to take their minds off the awful realities of the world.