Review: The Brave (US: NBC)

If NBC had made The Unit

NBC's The Brave

In the US: Monday, 10/9c, NBC

And so it begins. Spurred on by the success of both USA’s Shooter and the defence-spending happy Donald Trump, this US Fall season is going to be marked by a whole slew of almost certainly interchangeable military dramas designed to appeal to the ‘rust’/’flyover’ states. First up is The Brave.

So interchangeable are these shows that right up until I started writing this entry, I thought The Brave was a CBS programme. It looks just like one. We have a tiny unit of special forces operatives (cf CBS’s The Unit) tasked with going overseas to defend Americans (cf CBS’s Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders). We have a bunch of manly men (and a woman) out in the field, while back home in Washington DC, we have a bunch of nerds led by a woman in a suit (Anne Heche) telling them what to do while she stands in front of a big array of monitors (cf CBS’s CSI, CSI: Cyber, Intelligence).

It’s just so CBS. It even starts with a ridiculous statement at the start that in no way would piss off any other US or other government’s agencies:

You’ll note ‘increasingly’ offers the show a little latitude here.

And when our team gets sent on its first mission of the series to rescue a member of Doctors Without Borders who’s been kidnapped in Syria, we get dialogue like, “When are these bleeding hearts going to learn it’s just too dangerous to help people out here” and “We are fighting people who want to wipe us off the planet. That means we have to be as ruthless as they are.”

Except The Brave‘s not a CBS show. It’s on NBC.

Huh.

No, really. It’s not CBS

To be fair, there were clues to this that I overlooked. Firstly, the budget’s a lot smaller, and the direction’s more mundane, making everything look dead cheap and like it’s been filmed in a backlot somewhere. Secondly, Anne Heche’s way too liberal to appear on CBS these days – and to be allowed to appear on CBS.

Thirdly, although that trademark dreadful dialogue is there, we do get some attempts not to be handbangers. While show lead Mike Vogel (Under The Dome) gets to have most of the in-field fun as the head of the unit in question, he’s accompanied by female (Natacha Karam) and Muslim Arab (Hadi Tabbal) colleagues, and the first episode spends a lot of time demonstrating their value to operations with all the smoothness of a gear change to third to first and then back again without a clutch.

At the same time, the show tries hard in a way no CBS show would ever have to to demonstrate its patriotic red-blooded, Red State American values, by having Banshee‘s Demetrius Gross playing a scripture-quoting CPO called Ezekiel who’s only happy to serve alongside someone ‘who believes in a higher power’. In the middle of a firefight? I’m sure there’s a Bible verse that he can quote for the occasion.

It’s also a bit more thoughtful than a by the books CBS show. The actual shooting in the episode is kept to a minimum, as the plot’s largely about keeping tabs on people, infiltrating stealthily, obtaining information and not getting caught.

And there’s a twist. Two twists in fact, one right at the end, neither of which were immediately obvious. The second also makes me wonder where the show’s going next. Given how little effort was put into characterisation of the main characters as well, maybe someone’s going to get killed.

Who knows? As we saw yesterday, characterisation seems to be on the way out, ‘identity’ seems to be coming in this season to replace it, so maybe the fact Heche works hard, is a bit ruthless and her son died recently is all the producers think we need to know about her. Vogel likes dogs. One of the analysts has a bag of clothes prepared in case she needs to be in work early. Someone’s Muslim. Someone’s a woman. Someone’s Christian. Do we need to know much more about them than that? Not these days.

The Brave and the slow

The Brave is largely generic, not especially exciting, not very well made, quite stupid and frequently insultingly jingoistic. But it’s not dreadful and it’s a little brighter than the CBS procedural formula would have allowed it to be.

Still, I can’t help but feel that CBS’s version will be better and that this will be dead by the end of the season.

About

This fresh, heart-pounding journey into the complex world of America’s elite undercover military heroes follows Captain Adam Dalton (Mike Vogel) and his heroic Special Ops squad of highly trained undercover specialists as they carry out each mission on the ground. His team is armed with incredible sniper Sgt. Jasmine “Jaz” Khan (Natacha Karam), CPO Ezekiel “Preach” Carter (Demetrius Grosse), combat medic Sgt. Joseph “McG” McGuire (Noah Mills) and intelligence officer Agent Amir Al-Raisani (Hadi Tabbal). This team works hand-in-hand with D.I.A. Deputy Director Patricia Campbell (Anne Heche) and her team of analysts including veterans Cultural Specialist Noah Morgenthau (Tate Ellington) and Mission Coordinator Hannah Archer (Sofia Pernas), as they wield the world’s most advanced surveillance technology from headquarters in D.C. All members of this elite squad, both in D.C. and across the world, have one thing in common: their resilience and commitment to freedom is unmatched by any other. Often facing insurmountable challenges, the team works tirelessly to get the job done and to prevail in even the most complex situations. Week after week, the team uses that determination along with their unbreakable bond to save the lives of innocent people and execute missions in some of the most dangerous places in the world.

The Brave is from Keshet Studios and created by Executive Producer Dean Georgaris. Matt Corman and Chris Ord are showrunners and executive producers and Avi Nir, Alon Shtruzman, Peter Traugott and Rachel Kaplan also executive produce. The Brave is produced by Universal Television and Keshet Studios.