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Watching Steve Carell in full rigid-backed military man persona, it’s hard to shake the perception that this is a Michael Scott riff on Michael Scarn: Threat Level Midnight in space, if you will. To be honest, Threat Level Midnight was funnier — but then, by the time that classic episode rolled around on The Office, we’d had seven seasons of getting to know and love Michael Scott and his ship of fools. Space Force doesn’t initially strike the viewer as comparably laugh-out-loud as The Office, but it definitely has potential. First point in its favor: The outrageously good cast, loaded as it is with great character actors you’ve loved on other shows: Jean-Ralphio (Ben Schwartz) from Parks and Recreation, Jian-Yang (the priceless Jimmy O. Yang) from Silicon Valley; Jane Lynch shows up to sprinkle her particular sardonic magic into scenes as the Navy’s chief of staff.
Carell and Daniels also chose a particularly juicy comedic setting for their show: a brand-new branch of the military launched during a presidential administration that Naird delicately terms “chaotic.” The (unseen) POTUS dispenses his leadership through tweets that his cabinet strains to understand; Naird’s spending is watch-dogged by a group of Democratic members of congress who include doppelgangers for Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Naird’s job swings from great power to great absurdity in a matter of seconds. Tasked with appealing to high school seniors to enlist in his Space Force, Naird notes that “boots on the moon” is the force’s mission, and not just any boots, but American boots — well, the feet inside the boots will be made in the U.S.A., anyway, “can’t be certain where the boots will actually be made, may be Mexico, may be Portugal.” With material this rich in comic potential and a cast this good, Space Force has nowhere to go but up.