Categories
Comedy Netflix

Netflix comedy ‘Space Force’ shows real military branch’s struggle to be taken seriously – NBC News

Space Force has a gravity problem.

That there is a Netflix comedy series, “Space Force,” out Friday lampooning the newest branch of the U.S. military isn’t the best sign that the American public is taking its intended mission seriously.

Initiated with great hoopla by President Donald Trump with a June 18, 2018, executive order, the Space Force came with a grandiose vision. “It is not enough to merely have an American presence in space,” Trump said at the time, “We must have American dominance in space.”

Eighteen months later, the Space Force was officially established under the Air Force with the mandate of making good on the presidential bluster. Still in the development stage, the fledgling service has since struggled with an image problem — its real marching orders are far more grounded than the sci-fi name would suggest. It didn’t help shake that perception when the official symbol unveiled in January bore a noticeable resemblance to a logo from “Star Trek.”

Space Force Senior Enlisted Advisor CMSgt Roger Towberman, with President Donald Trump, presents the Space Force Flag on May 15, 2020, in the Oval Office of the White House.Mandel Ngan / AFP – Getty Images

“The idea of a Space Force was put forward about two years ago now and there’s been a lot of misunderstanding of what this is,” said Jack Burns, a professor of astrophysical and planetary sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“What it isn’t is Captain Kirk in the Starship Enterprise battling Klingons, or Luke Skywalker battling Darth Vader — in fact, it’s probably going to involve very few military folk in space,” Burns, who served on the 2016-2017 presidential NASA transition team, said. “It’s more, as I understand it, enhancing our defensive posture with better satellites dealing with hypermissiles in the atmosphere, a lot of software development, a lot of remote sensors.

“All of it, according to the experts, is behind where it needs to be given the progress that both the Russians and the Chinese have made.”

Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.

“That’s a very different Space Force than the public perception.”

The first 10-episode season of “Space Force” reunites showrunner Greg Daniels with his star from “The Office,” Steve Carell, who plays four-star Gen. Mark Naird, head of the titular branch. Co-starring John Malkovich, Jimmy O. Yang, Tawny Newsome, and Jane Lynch, the series orbits the current political landscape closely — with stand-ins for Trump, Anthony Scaramucci (former White House Director of Communications), and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., as the butt of the jokes.

John Malkovich as Dr. Adrian Mallory, Steve Carell as General Mark. R. Naird, Alex Quijano as Steve Hines, Roy Wood Jr. as Army Liaison Bert Mellows, John Hartmann as Chambers, Noah Emmerich as Kick Grabaston, and Brandon Molale as Clarke Luffinch in episode 105 of “Space Force” on Netflix.Netflix

“POTUS wants complete space dominance,” the fictional secretary of defense says at one point during the first episode. “Boots on the moon by 2024. Actually, he said b–bs on the moon, but we believe that to be a typo.”

As close as the first half of that dialogue hews to the president’s June 2018 promise to return American astronauts to the moon, “Space Force” is not close to a documentary. The fictional Space Force was filmed without incorporating the input of the real one.

“We welcome the opportunity to discuss providing support when requested,” U.S. Air Force Maj. William Russell, a spokesman for the Space Force, said by email. “Any program that opens up a conversation about the ongoing, vital national defense mission performed by the U.S. Space Force is a worthwhile endeavor.”

Just how worthy of an endeavor the military will find the new show is a question. Beyond the job title, there is little resemblance between Carell’s bumbling character and the distinguished four-star general who sits behind the real desk, Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond. And an episode featuring a trained chimpanzee forced to make a spacewalk to fix a satellite sabotaged by the Chinese makes a monkey out of what the real Space Force is trying to accomplish.

But what exactly is the Space Force attempting to accomplish, even as it’s dogged by memes, social media jokes and sitcoms?

“Our adversaries and competitors continue to threaten U.S. interests and endanger international security with new space weapons and tactics,” Russell said. “In April, the Iranians launched its first military satellite into the Earth’s orbit, while Russia recently performed an anti-satellite test.

“These are real-life examples on how the threats to U.S. and allied space systems are real, serious and growing.”

The real message, though, isn’t helped by the hyperbole heaped on the Space Force by the president, who touted the development of a “super duper missile” during a Space Force flag ceremony earlier this month. Lost in the superlatives is that the core mission, to protect U.S. assets, including vulnerable communications and GPS satellites, has been a priority for successive administrations and tasked to the Department of Defense for decades.

Critics, though, debate whether or not it required a sixth branch of the military with startup costs likely up to $4.7 billion, according to the independent Congressional Budget Office.

“Space Force is not a partisan issue, it’s a President Trump issue,” said Brian Weeden, director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation, a private organization dedicated to studying sustainability in space. “The debate about how best to organize the U.S. military for space activities has been going on for decades and it is not generally a partisan discussion.

“I think that the challenge comes in that President Trump has campaigned on this, he’s made it a feature of his rallies,” Weeden said. “So he has closely tied the issue of the Space Force to his personal political success.”

Weeden points to the parallels to the contentious debate over Ronald Reagan’s proposed Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), an expensive space-based missile-defense system that was derisively nicknamed “Star Wars” by its detractors.

“People were really confused at the time,” Burns said. “Also the technology proposed was way beyond our capability. At that point in time, there was no way you could provide a shield that could 100 percent protect from nuclear weapons.”

Technology has improved by light years since; the political debate over whether or not it is worth the cost remains the same.

Which makes the current space race a final frontier for comedy writers, just as a previous generation found humor in the specter of Cold War nuclear annihilation with the 1964 satire, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” And Daniels and the writers are careful to at least sometimes portray the fictional “Spacemen” as dedicated and competent as their 16,000 off-screen counterparts.

“Space is a happening place right now, from the entertainment industry, to popular culture, and the halls of the Pentagon,” Russell said. “Hopefully this comedy will encourage people to learn about the serious business of the real U.S. Space Force.”

Read More

Categories
Comedy Smart

Jean Smart To Star In Dark Comedy Picked Up To Series By HBO Max From ‘Broad City’ Trio & Michael Schur – Deadline

HBO Max has given a 10-episode series order to a single-camera comedy starring Jean Smart, from Broad City alums Paul W. Downs, Lucia Aniello and Jen Statsky.

The Universal TV project, executive produced by The Good Place creator Mike Schur, originally received a pilot order in late January. The pilot was in the midst of casting and had just secured Smart for the lead when all Hollywood production shut down in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Scripts already were being written and, based on the strength of the scripts and Smart’s casting, HBO Max has decided to give the project a series order. It is a path other networks and platforms are taking too amid the shutdown as they try to get more content in the pipeline for when filming is able to resume.

Written by Downs, Aniello, who also directs, and Statsky, the Untitled Aniello, Downs, Statsky comedy revolves around a dark mentorship that forms between two women from different generations — a Las Vegas diva, played by Smart, and an entitled, outcast 25-year-old. The comedy is from Schur’s Fremulon and Universal TV, where Schur and Statsky are under overall deals.

“When this dream team came to us, we jumped at the chance to develop this project, which features two complex female characters working in comedy and facing the professional and personal challenges that come along with it. When Jean Smart came aboard, we were even more delighted to move forward,” said Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content, HBO Max. “We’re excited to be working with this winning combination of talent and confident the show will fit perfectly into our robust slate of HBO Max Originals.”

Photo credit: Stephen Lovekin/​Variety/​Shutterstock/Robin Roemer

Downs and Aniello executive produce via their Paulilu banner alongside Statsky as well as Schur via Fremulon, David Miner for 3 Arts Entertainment and Morgan Sackett (The Good Place). Universal TV, a division of NBCUniversal Content Studios, is the studio.

“I am so thrilled to be making this show with our incredible partners at HBO Max and Universal TV, and it is a dream to write for the incomparable Jean Smart,” said Downs. “It is an honor and a privilege to craft and portray complex, female characters. For far too long, male voices dominated the space, both on-and-off screen, and thankfully that has finally changed. I’m sure Lucia and Jen agree, but unfortunately, they only gave us this much room for a quote. Sorry girls!”

Downs was a writer/executive producer and co-star on Broad City, which aired for five seasons on Comedy Central. He is a consulting producer on Comedy Central’s The Other Two. He also co-wrote, produced and starred opposite Scarlett Johanssen in the feature film Rough Night and currently guest stars in Apple’s Little America.

hbo max, warnermedia, distribution deal

HBO Max

Aniello was a writer/executive producer and director on Broad City. She directs and is an executive producer on the upcoming Babysitters Club on Netflix. She directed the pilot of Comedy Central’s breakout series Awkwafina is Nora From Queens.

Statsky served as a co-executive producer on Broad City. Statsky served as co-executive producer on NBC’s The Good Place, created and exec produced by Schur. Statsky’s writing credits also include NBC’s Parks and Recreation, Netflix’s Lady Dynamite, and Amazon’s Forever.

Three-time Emmy winner Smart also is set to star in another series for HBO Max, Superintelligence with Melissa McCarthy, and also will be seen in Mare of Easttown alongside Kate Winslet for HBO. Her other credits include HBO’s Watchmen, FX’s Fargo and A Simple Favor.

Smart is repped by WME and Untitled Entertainment; Downs and Aniello are repped by UTA and 3 Arts Entertainment; and Statsky is repped by Mosaic.

Read More