Early in the development of Space Force, producer Greg Daniels - who created the show with star Steve Carell - met Netflix's research team to get a sense of what its subscribers liked to watch. They told him how Netflix audiences particularly gravitated to workplace comedies with quirky characters and romantic entanglements.
In other words, The Office. Yes, they were basically describing the long-running US comedy Daniels adapted from the UK show by Ricky Gervais, and which ran on NBC from 2005 to 2013 before becoming a binge-watch sensation for Netflix.
"Part of me was like, yeah, I think I know what works on Netflix, because The Office was the No. 1 show on Netflix," Daniels chuckles.
Of partnering with his old pal, Carell says: "Greg Daniels was the first and only person that came to mind. He's smart, funny and has excellent taste. I trust him implicitly. More often than not, our instincts align with one another. We generally find the same sort of things funny, or moving, or intriguing. That has been the case since we first met."
Daniels, who has another comedy streaming at the moment - Upload on Amazon Prime - says he'd always wanted to write a show set in the military. Space Force, of course, was inspired by the actual new branch of the US armed forces, announced last year. "I do think that Space Force is a great way to talk about nationalism - and excessive nationalism," Daniels says.
Carell stars as four-star General Mark Naird, who is tasked with heading up the service branch after his dreams of running the Air Force are dashed. John Malkovich plays his foil, Dr Adrian Mallory, whose notion of using space for science and advancing civilization often conflicts with Naird's mission to achieve total space dominance for the US.
Daniels says Naird couldn't be more different from Carell's Office character, Michael Scott: "This guy is super mature. He's very accomplished and decorated. He's very smart. He's very inflexible. He's very principled and a super-high achiever who finds himself in a no-win situation. But he's going to do everything he can to pull it off".
Space Force is a bit of a satirical take on Donald Trump's eagerness to form the sixth armed service. But Daniels notes that Trump is never named in the show, which broadly pokes fun at both sides of the political aisle.
"We kind of looked at Dr Strangelove as some inspiration for this," he says. "There are a lot of Trumpy politicians out there. I also feel like there's a certain amount of Trump fatigue. I'm more interested in finding a comedy show that all people can laugh at and can enjoy than preaching to a choir and trying to score some points. The hope is that this is a show for everybody. Mark is this very principled military guy, and I think that there's a lot to be respected in his character for a more red-state audience, and then Adrian is more of a blue-state character. It's an interesting conflict. I think there's so much division in the country, and we're showing a bit of the division in the show, but the show isn't trying to be all one way by any measure." Rated M.
Judy & Punch
Whatever else you might say about this adults-only Aussie movie from 2019, it's certainly highly stylised and different. Judy (Mia Wasikowska) and Punch (Damon Herriman) are a husband and wife trying to resurrect their puppet show, but their personal lives get in the way and lead to violence and revenge. Rated MA.
The Wrong Missy
David Spade stars in a rom-com that's really a '90s Jim Carrey movie merged with one of those slob-goes-on-a-corporate-retreat comedies that has starred everyone from Bill Murray to Adam Sandler to Will Ferrell.
Here's what's new about it: The hypomanic Jim Carrey figure is a woman played by the wild-card comedian Lauren Lapkus, who may deserve her own version of The Mask, but in The Wrong Missy gets her own version of That's My Boy. Which isn't a terrible thing. Watching The Wrong Missy is easy - just sit back and give in to the movie's it-is-what-it-is-ness. Rated M.
Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect) plays Darby, a young woman whose perfectly rom-com career rise in New York City is not, at least for some time, matched by confidence or self-knowledge in her personal life.
We follow Darby (with narration by Lesley Manville) from her feckless, underemployed youth toward an adulthood marked by melancholy and a lot more care. It's a passage of years told, each episode, through a relationship with one significant person in her life. (Magnus, a particularly pernicious partner played by Nick Thune, manspreads over two instalments.)
When it comes to playing a character who ages nearly a decade over the run of the show, Kendrick manages to convince - aided both by the show's careful eye for what New York City at the turn of the 2010s looked like as opposed to what it looked like in, say, January 2020 and by Kendrick's own gifts for manifesting youthful insecurity and a growing sense of worth.
Its depiction of social types, from the chaotically resentful yet magnetic Magnus to the never-quite-grew-up best friend Sara (Zoe Chao), is effective too. That both of these characters have complex, knotty relationships with alcohol provides Darby something against which to push back.
Love Life is amply watchable, if telling a story that seems not to be demanding its own telling. The Magnus plotline's sprawl - defying the rules the show itself has set forth - kind of epitomises this: He's a character more compelling than anything else onscreen, but his awfulness makes Darby's ongoing tolerance seem beyond belief.
The show seems to be appealing to viewers who have watched Sex and the City or Insecure, both of which occupy similar-though-not-the-same romantic-dramedy turf. Rated M.