In the US: Fridays, 9.30/8.30c, Fox
If there’s one genre of comedy that the US does particularly well, it’s military comedy. Think The Phil Silvers Show. Think MASH. Think Private Benjamin. Don’t think Down Periscope.
But there’s been a bit of a lull of late. Wonder why. In fact, despite largely the conclusion of the Iraq war and the withdrawal of US troops from both there and Afghanistan, many are questioning if it’s ‘the right time’ for another military comedy.
Is there ever a right time?
All the same, a cautious greeting I think to Fox’s Enlisted, a welcome, funny comedy from Kevin Biegel, a former Scrubs writer and the co-creator of Cougar Town, that sees a ‘super soldier’ (Geoff Stults) sent back from Afghanistan for punching a superior officer. He winds up at a ‘rear detachment’ base in Florida, which coincidentally happens to be the same base where his two younger brothers are stationed – one who hates the army but is quite a good soldier, the other who loves the army but is a terrible soldier. Put in charge of them and the rest of their platoon of losers, Stults finds himself having to deal with not just his new, less prestigious mission, but competition from another sergeant (Angelique Cabral), his superior officer who also happened to raise him after his parents died (Keith David)… and a lost dog.
ENLISTED is an irreverent and heartfelt single-camera comedy about three brothers on a small Florida Army post and the group of misfits who surround them. Charming, funny and a natural-born leader, Staff Sergeant PETE HILL (Geoff Stults, “Ben and Kate,” “The Finder”) was on a path for a huge military career until one mistake overseas got him booted stateside to Fort McGee, the post in Florida where his two younger brothers are stationed. Now, as their platoon sergeant, Pete must serve both as big brother and military boss. Corporal DERRICK HILL (Chris Lowell, “Private Practice,” “Veronica Mars”) is the middle brother – smart and sarcastic, he likes to stir up trouble and doesn’t really care about being a Soldier. Private RANDY HILL (Parker Young, “Suburgatory”), on the other hand, loves it. He’s the hyper-enthusiastic, hyper-goofy – just plain hyper – youngest brother who wants to be the gung-ho “G.I. Joe” military ideal.
The Hill brothers all serve in the Rear Detachment (Rear D) unit, comprised of the Soldiers left behind when everyone else is deployed, who mow lawns on post, sort mail, wash tanks and find lost dogs. But the Rear D’s main job is taking care of deployed Soldiers’ families. Whatever they need, the Rear D Soldiers do. It’s a job that shifts each moment from the thrilling to the mundane to the emotional and back again.
Fort McGee Rear D is run by Command Sergeant Major DONALD CODY (Emmy Award winner Keith David, “Cloud Atlas,” “The Cape”), a firm but fair man who served with the brothers’ late father. Sergeant Major Cody promised to look out for them, so he brought all the brothers to the post to fulfill that promise. Cody has seen it all and lost a foot to prove it – which no one can forget, since he never misses an opportunity to bring it up. Also under Cody’s command is the confident, funny, tough and beautiful Staff Sergeant JILL PEREZ (Angelique Cabral, “Friends with Benefits”), who is the same rank as Pete and leads another Rear D platoon on post, all the while challenging Pete’s decisions at every turn.
A military-set family comedy, ENLISTED centers on three brothers who, when the best of the best are sent overseas, stay behind to try to keep the post in order. Between clean-up duty at a parade, human-grease-bowling and assorted soldierly pranks, they will inadvertently discover the key to strengthening their long-lost childhood bonds.
Is it any good?
I laughed. A lot. So yes. It’ll be cancelled within, ooh, about five episodes, judging by the ratings, but it’s funny, all the same.
There’s a lot to like, certainly. The cast are all good and while no one’s going to win awards for subtlety, that’s not what’s needed here – what’s needed is funny and virtually everyone has that. Even Keith David, which is surprising.
The writing’s clever, a lot more self-aware than you’d expect. The characterisation is good. Even when the female soldier turns up and double entendres crop up, it’s not done crassly. There are plenty of funny character and plot moments.
The editing is so fast-paced, it’s sometimes leaves the dialogue with little room to breath, which is a slight flaw. The easy defeat of the Italian commandos in the ‘war games’ a bit of a slur, given their loser opposition (although it all balances out at other points). The supporting characters are a little uncharacterised. And it’s not 100% accurate militarily, as you might expect – in fact, there were so many mistakes with the pilot, they’ve actually made a competition of it and are promising to do better in future episodes, having recruited a military adviser and sent all the cast to boot camp.
But this is Scrubs with the army, not Band of Brothers. It’s got a good cast and a good forthcoming guest cast – Brandon Routh, Dean Stockwell, Barry Bostwick and Stacy Keach, to name but a few. The producers really want it to be good. I’m recommending you give it a go – particularly if you want to wash the taste of Bluestone 42 out of your mouth.