About a year ago, Netflix announced it was producing a new workplace sitcom. The show would be another collaboration between Steve Carrell and The Office showrunner Greg Daniels. So far, so good! What raised some eyebrows, however, was the setting of this new workplace comedy: The freshly announced–and somewhat controversial–new branch of the military, Space Force.
Right up top, let’s address the 300-pound orangutan in the room. This show is going to court controversy. Some people won’t’ watch it because they think the real-life Space Force is a dumb idea from a dumb individual. Others won’t watch because they don’t like it when people say mean things about the most powerful person in the world. Agree or not, these are the times in which we live.
So, out of the gate, it seems Space Force (also the show’s title) is going to have to walk a knife’s edge to be successful. But here’s the thing; if there’s one man who can pull this off, it’s Greg Daniels. Aside from being a long-time writer for The Simpsons, Daniels’ major credits are creating/co-creating/show running three of the most successful sitcoms of the modern era: The Office, Parks and Recreation, and King of the Hill.
The Office was relatively inoffensive. But Parks and Rec was explicitly about a government office. While the show generally refrained from outright taking sides, several of the characters had their individual political beliefs laid bare. The most notable examples being arguably the two main characters of the show, Leslie and Ron.
Ron was a staunch and vocal Libertarian who once gave a land mine to an elementary schooler after teaching her about the evils of taxation by eating her lunch. Leslie was a pro-government Democrat with an obsessive sexual attraction to Joe Biden. And Daniels handled those characters and everyone in between with enough love and humanity that Parks and Rec was an enormous hit for seven pretty consistent seasons (though the final season does sputter as shows are wont to do).
King of the Hill–a show centered around a very conservative neighborhood suburban Texas–is another shining example of Daniels’ ability to create well-rounded and loveable characters who I suspect wouldn’t vote for the same people Daniels himself does.
What may actually be more difficult than juggling the politics of the show will be its high-level military setting. The strength of the shows I previously mentioned is their reliability. Hank Hill worked in retail. Dunder Mifflin was a paper company. Even Parks and Rec was mostly about local, low-level government (in fact, the sputtering of the later seasons probably has some to do with the rise to the national political stage). Will Daniels and Carrell be able to make a four-star general relatable to the average person?
With Space Force being ostensibly a military sitcom, there’s a temptation to compare it to Hogan’s Heroes or M*A*S*H. But (along with being created in entirely different eras of entertainment), those were set in a POW camp and a field hospital, respectively. Both are a far cry from the presumably largely bureaucratic Space Force. With its high-level government nature, I think a far more fitting analog for what we can expect will be Veep, which was also wildly successful.
Helping Space Force overcome its built-in hurdles will be a true powerhouse of a cast. Along with Carrell, Space Force will feature Fred Willard, Jessica St. Clair, Chris Gethard, Tawny Newsome, Don Lake, Ben Schwartz, Noah Emmerich, and John God Damn Malkovich. If this crew can’t pull off a comedy about Space Force, nobody can.
Space Force will premier May 29th on Netflix.