Ultimate Force: Oh God. We’re rubbish

I’ve been watching The Unit for a while now. It, of course, is based on – but for legal reasons, isn’t actually about – the US’s Delta Force special forces unit. It’s a hard, manly series exec produced by David Mamet. After a cracking pilot episode written by Mamet, the series dipped a bit, but is right back on target (did you see what I did there?), thanks in particular to some nifty scripts by Lynn Mamet, David Mamet’s sister. It’s not fantastically realistic, but it’s still pretty enjoyable.

But on Saturday evening, Ultimate Force returned to our screens for its fourth season. Ultimate Force stars Ross Kemp as the leader of an SAS unit and it’s supposed to be hard and manly as well. So I tuned in to compare and contrast our depiction of our most daring crack troops with the US’s depiction of theirs.

Oh sweet merciful Jesus. We are rubbish. We are the laughing stock of the world.

I haven’t really watched ITV in a long time. Every time I have, it’s been like playing a Lottery scratchcard: most of the time, it’s a complete waste of time and money and a bitter disappointment. Occasionally, you might win a quid, but that’s the best you’ll ever do. And with respected writer Jimmy McGovern (Cracker) arguing that primetime ITV drama is rubbish, I wasn’t going to change my mind on that very soon. Nevertheless, duty called so I watched Ultimate Force.

I don’t think mere words can really convey just how bad it was. As Sam whotsit on The Guardian said on Monday, it’s impossible to watch without a massive smirk on your face the whole way through, it’s just so bad. So to convey our true awfulness when we actually try to compete with the US, I thought I would go for a photoroman approach, in the style of La Jetée (which I actually fell asleep during, so I can’t be sure this is very much like it).

This is Dennis Haysbert, the star of The Unit

Dennis Haysbert in The Unit

As I’m sure you’ll agree, a hard, manly man. Or at least convincing as a hard, manly man.

This is Ross Kemp

Ross Kemp in his pants

To quote the lovely Marie, “HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA” .

Or if you prefer, “hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha”

Now let’s look at The Unit‘s attempts to do abroad. I’ve already commented on this once but they’re getting better:

Rio de Janeiro

You could kind of believe that was a favella in the background, couldn’t you? Now let’s look at Ultimate Force‘s stab at ‘abroad’:

Ultimate Force's laughable attempt to do abroad

It’s a caravan site in the New Forest! They couldn’t even be bothered to use a real country! They’ve made one up. Dear God, we’re rubbish.

It’s just depressing. Any country insane enough to buy Ultimate Force is going to think Ross Kemp is the best action hero we’ve got! The Germans have more action-packed police shows than this: they have Der Puma – Kämpfer mit Herz and got Donnie Yen to direct the action sequences. We have Ross Kemp in his pants.

It’s disheartening to say the least.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.