(Warning: Spoilers ahead for season 1 of Netflix’s “Space Force.”)
“Space Force” on Netflix is a topical show. Surely most folks who will watch this series already know what inspider it, and those who don’t will probably figure it out quickly.
But for those who don’t keep up with the new all that closely: in the real world, Donald Trump ordered the creation of a real United States Space Force, and now we have a TV show about a new United States Space Force, and the unseen fictional US president on that show tweets a lot. You do the math.
But nobody on the show ever comes out and say that this fictional president is Donald Trump. And while the jokes about the president’s Twitter habits are a pretty clear reference to Trump, the Steve Carell series, which launched on Netflix Friday, certainly dances around the president’s identity. He’s never seen, never heard, never described, never named, and generally the characters just refer to him as POTUS. It’s not an apolitical series, but it’s politics-lite for a show with this sort of subject matter.
So, yes, while most folks who watch “Space Force” will pick up on the references, it’s not impossible to imagine somebody eventually being able to enjoy the show without thinking much about real world events. And that’s how Greg Daniels, who co-created the series with Carell, likes it.
“Well, it’s primarily a comedy show and it is satire, but it’s a character comedy and we’re hoping that 10 years from now, people will still find something of value in the show,” Daniels told TheWrap. “And it’s really not like a late-night, kind of news-based thing. So our goal is to be funny and take the perspective of this military guy and there are certainly pressures that he’s getting from politicians and people can definitely read into it whatever they’d like to read into it, but we were kind of taking a longer view on it and also trying to be a show that people can enjoy without getting into the partisan craziness.”
But also, Daniels said, they didn’t want to disrespect the actual folks who will be a part of the real-life Space Force.
“We always decided that we wanted to take a respectful tact to the people who are actually doing this and being hopeful that people who are in the military are going to enjoy the show and laugh at it, which means you gotta do your research so that it’s got some basis in reality and that it’s more observational to the issues that they’re going through. And our hope is the actual guy who is running the Space Force is going to enjoy this the most, since he can actually identify with the situation the best.”
Star John Malkovich, who plays the Space Force’s head scientist, told TheWrap that he believes the series is vague enough, and light enough, that Trump supporters can enjoy it.
“I think it’s a very fair, funny treatment and I don’t think really naming is necessary. It’s referenced, I think, in a very funny way that isn’t offensive even to fans of the president,” Malkovich said. “For instance, in the scene where Steve gets a text from POTUS as he’s about to enter the prison for a conjugal visit with his wife and he gets the text from the president saying, ‘sex is for winners,’ because we’ve had a failed launch. That’s funny, and not unlikely, but funny, rather than something we can read from Hollywood on a tweet every second of every day, including from my friends five seconds before you called. I think the country has kind of heard a lot of that. So I think Greg writes a very funny and very balanced, but not hateful, series.”
Likewise, his co-star Ben Schwartz told us that the vagueness surrounding the identity of the president is freeing. Because it means they don’t have to be married to Trump jokes.
“We’re not referencing anybody in particular. There’s homages. There is a character that may have the same initials as AOC. But I like the idea that it’s a comedy for comedy’s sake,” said Schwartz, whose character — Space Force’s overeager PR guy F. Tony Scarapiducci — will certainly call to mind former Trump press secretary Anthony Scaramucci.
“There’s obviously some political things within it, but the purpose of the show isn’t a political push. It’s more so 30 minutes of comedy,” Schwartz continued. “So not labeling the president also allows us to have this president be anybody we want, have his characteristics be anything we want and stuff like. So I actually like that idea, that we can live in the world and the zeitgeist of what politics are right now, but at the same time make it our own and find the comedy value in all of it.”