Tune in Tonight by Kevin McDonough

Reality Trumps Comedy on Netlix’s Misguided ‘Space Force’

-- With the thousand or so new series emerging every year, there are bound to be stinkers. And most of them are quickly forgotten. Nobody is going to mourn, much less remember, CBS’s quickly canceled “Broke.” Netflix’s new series “Space Force,” on the other hand, offers a 20-car pileup of wasted talent and what-were-they-thinking comedy misfires. It attempts a ham-fisted satire of an ongoing nightmare, and fails miserably.

This is a show about a subject it never mentions. Named for the new branch of the military, a brainchild of the current administration, “Space Force” lampoons all of the shortcomings of the 45th president without mentioning his name. But they are personified by Steve Carell as Gen. Mark R. Naird. Imagine Michael from “The Office” stripped of any vulnerability.

John Malkovich plays Dr. Adrian Mallory, the scientist actually in charge, who merely humors Carell’s character and his loud, ongoing rambles, seemingly designed to advertise his ignorance of science.

“Space” squanders a cast of notables, including Jimmy O. Yang (“Silicon Valley”), as scientists and experts who must endure Naird’s bluster. The late Fred Willard makes an appearance as the general’s confused father. Alex Sparrow (“unReal”) plays a Russian scientist on the staff, an obvious plant with a hotline to both the Oval Office and the Kremlin.

Along with Carell, “Space Force” is a co-creation of Greg Daniels (“The Office”). This stands in contrast to Daniels’ Amazon series “Upload,” a comedy both profound and romantic.

“Space Force” essentially dials Michael Scott up to 11 while depriving us of anybody else to root for. Devoid of cathartic laughs, it’s as if the cast (and the audience) are being held hostage by a blowhard. Gee, I wonder what that feels like?

Willard’s character and a teenage daughter played by Diana Silvers are here to create some humanity and sympathy for Naird, but that ship has sailed. Viewers of “The Office,” put up with Michael’s worst because the stakes at Dunder Mifflin, a paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania, were so low. That isn’t the case here. And rather than sending up Gen. Naird’s tweet-obsessed inspiration, the show seems to be asking viewers to embrace the tragedy as “the new normal.”

-- If you’re the kind of viewer who might enjoy Josh Gad as a cartoon busker bursting into a jokey, wordy title song, then the Apple TV+ animated comedy “Central Park” might be for you.

Also on Apple TV+, “Dear ...” offers half-hour profiles of notables including Oprah Winfrey, Gloria Steinem, Spike Lee, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Yara Shahidi, Stevie Wonder, Aly Raisman, Misty Copeland, Big Bird and more. After very brief introductions, we hear from people who have written to the subjects over the years. Artfully produced by R.J. Cutler, we see these correspondents as they read their letters aloud. Most of the missives are of the "you changed my life" variety. Hollywood hagiography at its most Hallmark-y.

-- Ramy Youssef stars as a confused 20-something Muslim in New Jersey on "Ramy," streaming its second season on Hulu.

TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

-- Stylists offer advice remotely to bold-faced names in search of quarantine cuts on "Haircut Night in America" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).

-- “American Masters” (9 p.m., PBS, r, TV-14, check local listings) profiles Hedy Lamarr.

-- Advice for the mayor on ”Blue Bloods" (10 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).

CULT CHOICE

Sam Fuller, a master of Cold War noir, directed the 1953 thriller “Pickup on South Street” (8 p.m., TCM, TV-PG), about a subway pickpocket (Richard Widmark) who steals secrets from a Communist’s girlfriend's (Jean Peters) purse.

SERIES NOTES

Stylish homes on “Shark Tank” (8 p.m., ABC, r, TV-14) ... “World of Dance” (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) ... “WWE Friday Night SmackDown” (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) ... Dean Cain hosts “Masters of Illusion” (8 p.m., CW, TV-PG), followed by a repeat episode ... Picked pockets on “Magnum P.I.“ (9 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14) ... “The Wall” (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-PG) ... “20/20” (9 p.m., ABC) ... Improvisations on two episodes of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (9 p.m., CW, r, TV-14) ... “Dateline” (10 p.m., NBC).

LATE NIGHT

Trevor Noah and Willie, Lukas & Micah Nelson are booked on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” (11:35 p.m., CBS, r) ... Jimmy Fallon glances back at clips of Miley Cyrus, Barack Obama and Steve Carell on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... Sean Penn appears on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (11:35 p.m., ABC).

Aidy Bryant, Rep. Eric Swalwell and Day Drinking with the Jonas Brothers visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC, r) ... Jamie Lee Curtis, Thomas Middleditch and Pardison Fontaine featuring Offset appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden” (12:35 a.m., CBS, r).

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