Six months after the United States Space Force got up and running, its fictional counterpart is doing the same.
The 10-episode first season of “Space Force,” the new Netflix comedy series created by actor Steve Carell and writer-producer Greg Daniels, premieres on the streaming platform today (May 29).
“Space Force” stars Carell as Gen. Mark R. Naird, a military man who was expecting to lead the U.S. Air Force but is instead handed the reins of the new Space Force. The show was obviously inspired by the real U.S. military branch, which President Donald Trump signed into existence in December 2019. But don’t expect mockery, or a straight-up send-up.
“It’s a character comedy. It’s not a mean-spirited show,” Daniels told Space.com. “We’re hoping that people who love space, and people who are in the military, will enjoy the show.”
Daniels counts himself as a big space fan, describing the Apollo moon landings as “the highlight of America.” And he has an interesting first-hand connection to space history.
“When I was a kid, my second-grade teacher dated Alan Shepard and brought him by,” Daniels said. Shepard, of course, was the first American to reach space, achieving the milestone during a suborbital mission on May 5, 1961. He also walked, and played golf, on the moon during the Apollo 14 mission in 1971.
Space exploration has changed greatly since the Apollo era, of course — and in some ways for the worse, in Daniels’ eyes. For example, he sees an increased emphasis these days on exploiting the military advantages and the economic resources of the final frontier.
“I think if there’s any commentary [in the show], it might be that it’s a bit of a shame that something that was originally being done for humanity is now being done in a little more of a nationalistic fashion, with all these different countries turning it into a military project and a mining project,” Daniels said.
But such commentary is strictly secondary, for “Space Force” is here to make us laugh. And it certainly seems to have great potential in this regard.
Carell and Daniels are very funny people, for starters. And they’ve worked together before, very successfully — on the American version of “The Office,” which Daniels developed from the original British show.
Daniels has also worked on a number of other high-profile shows, including “Parks and Recreation,” “King of the Hill,” “Saturday Night Live” and “The Simpsons.” He wrote a number of beloved “Simpsons” episodes, in fact, including “Homer Badman,” “Lisa’s Wedding,” “Bart Sells His Soul” and “22 Short Films About Springfield” (which contains perhaps the funniest 3 minutes in television history).
Then there’s the supporting cast of “Space Force,” which is exceptionally strong. John Malkovich plays the Space Force science chief, for instance, and Ben Schwartz — Jean Ralphio from “Parks and Recreation” — is head media manager F. Tony Scarapiducci. The new series also stars Diana Silvers, Tawny Newsome, Lisa Kudrow, Jimmy O. Yang, Jane Lynch, Noah Emmerich and the late Fred Willard.
And the final frontier is fertile ground for comedy, even though no one can hear you laugh in the dark, cold vacuum. In fact, there may be something inherently funny about space, Daniels said.
“It’s very common in comedy to make fun of someone who gets a little bit too big for their britches,” he said. “And maybe the notion that human beings, who evolved on Earth, feel like we can just saunter into outer space and conquer it — maybe there’s a bit of comedy of exaggerated self-image and self-importance that comes from that.”
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.