Review: ‘Space Force’ has better laughs in its second season


LONDON: The first season of “Space Force” was something of a mixed bag — a stellar concept, excellent ensemble cast and some very funny material that satirized with varying degrees of success. Sadly, the show veered too wildly from slapstick to serious, falling short of landing effective punches with either glove. In short, it wasn’t clear exactly what kind of show star Steve Carell and co-creator Greg Daniels wanted “Space Force” to be — a workplace comedy with an unorthodox setting, or a big-budget comedy-drama with some grandiose set pieces.

The second season, however, has its feet on solid ground. As the staff of Space Force, under the leadership of Carell’s General Naird, deal with the fallout of the first season’s Moon-based diplomatic shenanigans, the members of the motley crew find themselves under intense scrutiny from a new secretary of defense (Tim Meadows), tasked with dominating the modern space race with slashed budgets and reduced personnel.

Season two’s director Ken Kwapis keeps the action on a smaller scale, focusing more on workplace high jinks and less on CGI spaceships, and the result is a show, rather than being propped up by special effects, that feels more familiar and assured. What “Space Force” has is a cast with excellent comedic instincts (though any and all remain overshadowed by the sheer deadpan brilliance of John Malkovich’s Dr. Mallory), and it’s used to great effect. If anything, the episodic narratives are largely irrelevant — they serve as mere backdrops for actors who seem better acquainted with their characters second time around.

Carell makes Naird more human (and more believable), Ben Schwartz portrays social media guru Tony Scarapiducci as less of a stereotypical jerk, while Diana Silvers, Tawny Newsome and Jimmy O. Yang all benefit from a shade more nuance written into their supporting characters.

Sure, there are some gags that still don’t land, and some that are disappointingly silly, but “Space Force” shows signs of morphing into a more balanced, more competent show — less hung up on its own clever concept and more focused on the task of making viewers laugh.