Review: Space Force
Space Force, we have a problem.
A show fast-tracked into being after US President Donald Trump announced the titular new branch of the US military, the main problem of this Netflix comedy series - which premieres on May 29 - is that it is not sure what it wants to be.
On paper it sounds like a winner. A premise ripped from the headlines and created by Steve Carell and Greg Daniels of The Office fame.
But it feels unsure of its tone. Is it goofy? Satirical? Heartwarming?
At points it wants to be as nasty as Veep, but it doesn't have the stomach to make everyone unlikeable.
It has moments where the seemingly hard-line General Naird (Carell) gives way to empathy for his science team.
This is reminiscent of the creators' jobs with The Office and Parks And Recreation - or even Carell's animated alter ego Gru from the Despicable Me movies - albeit with a licence to swear.
As mean as they want to be, they can't resist having their characters grow and learn.
That is not to say it's not funny.
Okay, maybe funny is too strong a word.
Most of the time, Space Force amuses - gently. Big laughs are occasional.
Sometimes, it's groan-worthy – such as the dance to The Beach Boy's Kokomo that feels too obvious and basic a gag (uptight military man likes naff pop hits) to spend so much time on.
Maybe a second season will iron out the kinks, as can happen with many ensemble comedies.
This certainly hints at, even demands, one. Rather infuriatingly, considering the pace it picks up towards the end of the series.
As it is, some lines are great, but they can feel like they are floating in space - unable to breathe.
One standout is John Malkovich as the slyly laconic Dr Mallory, delivering lines to deflate Naird's pomposity.
Chris Gethard and Tamiko Brownlee as the lowest-IQ astronauts possible are welcome shots of sheer dumbness.
It's also worth noting that Space Force is a chance to see Fred Willard - who died on May 15 - in one of his final roles as Naird's ailing dad.
Willard's skill is in bringing comedy to a somewhat tragic situation. And for trivia fans, Willard starred in a 1978 TV movie also called Space Force (no relation).
While it appears to be a major cast, some of the big names are cameos at best, including Lisa Kudrow as Naird's inmate wife.
Space Force is perfect for an easy, non-committal watch. But while all the components are there, it has yet to blast off.
SERIES: Space Force
STARRING: Steve Carell, John Malkovich, Tawny Newsome, Ben Schwartz, Lisa Kudrow, Jimmy O. Yang
THE SKINNY: Newly-appointed four-star general Mark R. Naird (Carell) is immediately given the task of heading the new Space Force with a view to getting Americans back on the moon. But he has to contend with a jealous Air Force and the fact that China might just set up a lunar colony first.