Michael Scott is back on TV… sort of. Steve Carell's Space Force character General Mark Naird is based on — at least in title, job function, and employment background — on the real Chief of Space Operations, General John "Jay" Raymond. As far as personal details, personality traits, and everything else, Naird isn't based on anyone. Well, anyone real. Where Naird's similarities with Raymond end, his shades of Michael Scott begin.
General Naird Is A Lesser Michael Scott
Naird is a more bumbling version of Michael Scott (yes, this is possible!) with a military budget and a more absurd-sounding workplace; Space Force will always sound goofier than Dunder Mifflin. Naird does take his job seriously and presents a strong front that he likes and is proud of what he's doing, but behind the scenes, Naird's department is a bit of a laughing stock. His colleagues frequently question his decisions, he's often putting out fires just as more start, and he's the definition of cringe-worthy. The thing is, after season 1 of The Office, Michael was cringe-worthy in a way that made it clear he really cared. Probably too much. Naird just seems... lost. And in a much less funny way than Michael Scott.
That said, if you're having Michael flashbacks, that's probably because Naird is pulling a few signature moves out of the vault: He is painfully awkward around women he wants to date; he takes his job so seriously and is so stubborn that he almost ruins everything; and he makes absolutely ridiculous workplace decisions. Only someone inspired by Michael Scott would decide that relying on chimpanzee and dog astronauts to fix a satellite is the best course of action in a literal space emergency.
So, Who Is The Real Space Force General?
First off, the real head of Space Force looks nothing like Carell. In fact, Carell said on The Graham Norton Show that Raymond thought "Bruce Willis would have been a better choice to play [the] character," because Raymond is bald, where Carell's got a full head of salt-and-pepper hair.
But on paper, Naird shares a lot of background details with Raymond. They both came up in the Air Force and are four-star generals, the highest rank in the military.
However, publicly, Raymond seems a little more jazzed about his Space Force appointment than the character Naird was in the first episode of Space Force, when he was given what the other generals were calling a joke branch.
NPR reports that Raymond had long advocated for creating a military branch dedicated to outer space. And when he was sworn in, he told Vice President Mike Pence, "We have our marching orders and we are moving out. We do not want a conflict to begin or extend into space, we want to deter that conflict from happening. The best way I know how to do that is to do so from a position of strength."
Naird's pseudo catch-phrase "boots on the moon by 2024" that, in the show, comes direct from the nameless POTUS with a typo ("boobs on the moon by 2024"), is actually less of a nod at Raymond, and more of a reference to the oft quoted overall plan that Space Force be "fully operational" by 2024.
As over-the-top (and hubris prone) as Naird's character can be, though, Carell told The Graham Norton Show that there are no hard feelings between the series and the actual people running the actual branch of the government called Space Force.
"Those in charge have a great sense of humor and have been really nice about our show. They haven't been thin-skinned at all … [and] they seem to be fans which is nice," Carell said. Additionally, an actual Space Force vice commander told Politico that he understands why the show exists... in the most buttoned up way possible: “The premise of us going to a moon in the military and stuff like that, it’s interesting for maybe comedy and satire."
Why yes, vice commander, it is. Which is probably why we've got Military Michael Scott as our guide.