A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Space Force is a comedy about a new branch of the U.S. military tasked with occupying the moon. It's headed by four-star general Naird (Steve Carell). Iffy content often comes in the form of jokes, like scenes in which ruinously expensive rockets explode before launching, and a president announces policy changes in the form of tweets. Naird is clearly a figure meant to be funny but not hatable; although he makes many questionable decisions in his job, he's still a loving and concerned husband and father. His troops and advisers are also diverse in terms of gender, age, country of origin, ethnicity, and race. Infrequently, characters are shown drinking liquor and smoking cigars together; no one acts drunk. A teen girl is dating a much older man who may be using her for insider knowledge; this idea is played for laughs. Language includes "f--k," "motherf----r," "bulls--t," and "damn."
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What's the story?
Created by Greg Daniels (The Office) and Steve Carell, SPACE FORCE stars Carell as four-star general Naird, who's tasked with one mission by the quixotic tweeting POTUS that we never see: Boots on the moon in 2024. And this time, Naird says, we're not going to the moon for dumb ol' science stuff. This time it's to occupy. John Malkovich also stars as skeptical adviser Dr. Adrian Mallory, Lisa Kudrow as Naird's beleagured wife, Maggie, and Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation) as Tony, Naird's social media lead.
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Space Force's premise. Do you think the show exaggerates what happens behind the scenes in military and federal governmental offices? Are the jokes poking fun at situations that ring true to life? How? What political points are being made by this show? How does this show view the military and federal government? Would you say it's a biased or unbiased portrait? What's the difference?
Steve Carell and Greg Daniels most famously worked together on The Office, which has a mockumentary filming style, while Space Force looks more like a movie. Which style do you prefer? Which do you think is more comedically effective?
Space Force pokes fun at serious subjects like racism, sexism, reckless military spending, ineffective governmental leadership, and more. How do shows and movies use comedy to put across their viewpoints? Is it easier to accept these ideas in the guise of humor? Why or why not?
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