It's kind of impossible not to compare Steve Carell's Space Force character General Mark R. Naird to his Office character Michael Scott. Perhaps it's that they're both in shows created by Greg Daniels, or maybe it's just that Carell (Space Force co-creator) plays a boss in both comedies. Or it might just be Carell himself, who brings similar affectations to both roles.
Daniels, however, believes these two characters are polar opposites. "Michael is such an incompetent and terrible leader, and a person who can be persuaded out of his opinion in two seconds," he told Collider. "Mark Naird is all about being a great leader and a person of integrity, and if he has a character flaw it's inflexibility — they're really quite opposite."
It was almost certainly a conscious decision to make sure Carell's onscreen counterparts weren't too similar to each other, in the same way that Ben Schwartz plays a character who is not unlike his Parks and Recreation character Jean-Ralphio. Still, it's easy to see the through-line between Michael Scott and General Naird. His Space Force character is by no means a bumbling idiot, but he's still an underdog at a new, untested military branch. Think of it as the Scranton branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. Here's how Carell's two characters stack up against each other.
- The location: It's ironic that Michael left The Office to move to Colorado with Holly, while Space Force picks up with Naird moving to the same state. A coincidence?
- The bumbling racism: Who can forget all the comments Michael made to Stanley, Kelly, and Darryl over the years at Dunder Mifflin? Naird immediately profiles Dr. Chan Kaifang (Silicon Valley's Jimmy O. Yang), believing he's a spy for the Chinese. It's not a good look.
- The singing: Michael would absolutely break into song to relieve stress in the same way Naird does.
- The underdog dynamic: The Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin was virtually unnoticed in the paper business, while the Space Force is both the newest and most ill-equipped of the military branches.
- The military: Michael wouldn't last a day in the military. Are you kidding me?!
- The running: Remember when Michael tried to run a 5K? Carell's Office character would never become a regular jogger, while Naird regularly goes for runs — sometimes while wearing a full space suit.
- The leadership: While Naird doesn't have a "World's Best Boss" mug on his desk, it would certainly look less out of place on his than it does in Michael's office. Yes, Naird is still trying to figure out how to run a military branch, but his arc across Season 1 implies that he's going to get there — eventually.
- The parenting: Michael might have become a good parent if Jan hadn't made him get a triple vasectomy, but it's unlikely. And although Naird doesn't have the time to properly raise his daughter Erin (Diana Silvers), he's still a loving father who insists on helping with her math homework.
- The professional dynamics: In The Office, Michael verbally abused poor Toby for absolutely no reason. And while Naird certainly has nemeses, they make more sense in Space Force's political setting. Not only does Noah Emmerich's character taunt Naird every time he comes to the Pentagon, but the Space Force general is in a race against the rest of the world to try and get boots on the moon. Then there's Naird's dynamic with Dr. Adrian Mallory (John Malkovich), which is initially combative before they come to a mutual understanding. This is much different than Michael's complex rapport with Jim or Dwight's fawning behavior toward his boss.
Fortunately, Naird isn't a straight replica of Michael Scott, because not only would that make for boring television, but it would have disastrous political ramifications — at least in the Space Force universe.