‘Shockingly bad’: Critics pan Netflix’s ‘Space Force’ starring Steve Carell

May 26, 2020, 5:26 PM UTC

When Netflix announced a new comedy series spoofing President Trump’s creation of the United States Space Force, hopes were high. Space Force is cocreated by Greg Daniels and Steve Carell—the team behind The Office—and featured an impressive cast with Carell in the lead role, along with John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, Jane Lynch, and Lisa Kudrow, among others.

But when the review embargo on Space Force lifted Tuesday morning, it became clear that the comedy chops of its creators and stars somehow didn’t equate to enjoyable television.

As of Tuesday afternoon, reviews for the series sit at 52% positive according to popular aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with the critic consensus reading that “an all-star cast and blockbuster-worthy special effects aren’t enough to keep Space Force’s uneven blend of earnestness and satire from spinning quickly out of comedic orbit.”

The Daily Beast went a step further, calling the show “shockingly bad.” Time magazine questioned how a show created by the minds behind The Office could make “such a bust.” Variety wrote: “Given the talent and enormous machine behind it, Space Force should by all rights be better than ‘fine.’”

Rolling Stone critic Alan Sepinwall reminded viewers that the first season of The Office was not initially well-received; it wasn’t until Daniels adjusted Carell’s character, Michael Scott, that the show began to morph into a cultural touchstone. Now, Sepinwall writes, “Daniels and Carell apparently had to learn the original Michael lesson all over again, on a much bigger scale, rendering much of Space Force uncomfortable to watch at best.”

It’s not yet clear what the budget for Space Force was, but The Hollywood Reporter reported that Carell’s salary—including cocreator and executive producer fee—set a new overall record for television talent, “likely topping the $1 million per episode paydays that the cast members of CBS’s The Big Bang Theory previously netted.” Critics also noted elaborate production design throughout the series’ 10 episodes.

Despite the negative consensus, Space Force wasn’t universally panned. Vanity Fair had a mixed but leaning positive review, praising Carell’s and Malkovich’s performances. “On Space Force, everything looks great—the show has incredible production values,” critic Sonia Saraiya wrote, before adding, “but there’s rot in the foundation.”