The real story behind Netflix comedy Space Force

Steve Carell's new series is inspired by recent developments in the real US military

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Steve Carell is making his Netflix debut with a new comedy series co-created by his collaborator on The US Office.

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Space Force tells the story a high-ranking general in the American military, who is placed in charge of a brand new branch with its sights set on the stars. Somewhat surprisingly, the series is inspired by real life.

In December 2019, President Donald Trump did indeed launch the United States Space Force (USSF), which has a mission to “protect US and allied interests in space” by “developing military space professionals, acquiring military space systems, maturing the military doctrine for space power, and organising space forces to present to our Combatant Commands,” according to the organisation’s official website.

In May 2020, the official flag of the USSF was added to the President’s famous Oval Office in the White House, further establishing its position in the future of US military efforts.

Of course, Netflix’s Space Force takes huge liberties with the actual organisation and is in no way a “true story,” featuring an entirely fictional cast of characters (with the exception of the President himself, who is only spoken about and never seen).

Carell plays General Mark Naird, a high ranking officer in the US military chosen to oversee Space Force with the task of putting “boots on the moon” by 2024.

In reality, the US government has not set an exact target for when they would like to send soldiers into space, but troops from the other branches of its military will transfer to Space Force in the coming months, in addition to thousands of new recruits.

The real head of the USSF is General John W. Raymond, who served for over 35 years in the US Air Force before being chosen for the new role.

While Carell’s character isn’t based on Raymond, the two do share certain similarities as Mark Naird also has a background in the Air Force, where he worked under his nemesis, General Kick Grabaston (Noah Emmerich).

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Speaking on tonight’s instalment of The Graham Norton Show, Carell says: “It’s almost like we had parallel development – it was so funny that certain aspects mirror each other – but there are differentiations for sure.

“Those in charge have a great sense of humour and have been really nice about our show. They haven’t been thin-skinned at all. The general in charge did think Bruce Willis would have been a better choice to play my character, but they seem to be fans which is nice.”

The rivalry depicted between Space Force and the Air Force in Carell’s comedy series has a loose connection with real events, but has of course been exaggerated greatly for comic effect.

Prior to the USSF being launched, the United States’ space operations fell under the control of the Air Force’s now retired Space Command, which is perhaps why Grabaston is so keen to get Space Force back under his control throughout the series.

Given its recent formation, it’s understandable that many people are unfamiliar with the USSF – including Space Force star Lisa Kudrow herself, who plays Carell’s wife in the series.

She told Entertainment Weekly: “I had no idea, I really did not know that the president said, ‘Let’s have a Space Force.’ I mean, I just can’t keep up, so I missed that one…

“And it’s so embarrassing because when I saw the last State of the Union and he mentioned Space Force, I went, ‘Oh! It’s a real thing!’ I usually keep up with what’s going on, but to me, there’s so much – and sometimes I don’t know what’s a joke and what isn’t.”

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Space Force embarks on a mission to Netflix on Friday 29th May. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV guide.