In the US: Wednesdays, 10pm ET, Paramount
In the UK: Not yet acquired
The army has become a Hallowed Thing in the US in the past 30 years or so. Maybe it’s a backlash agains the attitudes to Vietnam and those serving in it that spawned numerous scathing dramas and comedies in cinemas and on TV. Whatever the cause, whenever a new TV US show turns up about the army, it’s rarely ‘all knives out’ these days.
Certainly, it’s hard to imagine M*A*S*H lasting 11 seasons and getting 125 million viewers for its final episode now. Soldiers having relationships with one another? Soldiers trying to get discharged for wearing women’s clothing? Inconceivable.
And you can tell that not pure conjecture on my part by looking at the reaction to 68 Whiskey, an adaptation Yes (Israel)’s Charlie Golf One that it is pretty much a M*A*S*H for our times. Or at least something that tries to be.
Whiskey (and pussy) galore
Now, although IMDb reviews are not normally to be trusted (for all sorts of reasons), they are at least accurate in one regard: 68 Whiskey is a desperately unfunny show. But to be fair to 68 Whiskey, it is intended to be a comedy at least, so perhaps shouldn’t be ripped to shreds for not being 100% accurate.
But we live in an age in which the softest of comedy soft takes on the US army, Enlisted, can be taken apart for actors not having the wrong haircuts. No one therefore should have been expecting anything less than the Paramount flag being burnt in the streets and writers being spit upon, in response to 68 Whiskey, which isn’t so much a ‘warts and all’ look at life in an Afghanistan military medical facility as a ‘female soldiers are sluts and male soldiers are all crooks’ take.
Most of the comedic situations in the first episode involve sex or something illegal. The two main female soldiers in the cast are respectively either posing in bikinis with guns for Instagram or getting drunk and getting close to naked in front of everyone else. That just leaves Leverage‘s Beth Riesgraf to raise her eyebrows a lot at the company of clearly underworked medics at her disposal.
Meanwhile, the male soldiers are running illegal gambling rings on kickboxing fights and negotiating drugs deals with local warlords after venturing outside ‘the wire’ (nope). I’d say it was the original Israeli source material at fault, were it not for the very different nature of Charlie Golf One compared to 68 Whiskey.
What’s your tipple?
Still trying to be scrupulously fair to 68 Whiskey, if you were doing M*A*S*H today and setting it in Afghanistan, you, too, would include private military contractors and translators, and have a generally black and cynical take on everything. And you’d get away with it, if you were funny enough – and maybe if you weren’t quite so misogynistic, something M*A*S*H itself learnt after a couple of seasons.
The trouble is 68 Whiskey really isn’t funny. Despite weaving together elements of both M*A*S*H and Catch 22 – and even Three Kings – it never even raises a titter. It tries really, really hard. It even uses the word clitoris a lot to do this. But it never achieves it.
The cast are affable enough, but none will stick in your memory once you’ve watched the episode. Yes, perhaps 68 Whiskey‘s worst crime isn’t that it’s not funny, it’s that for all its taboo-breaking, swearing, sex and drugs, it’s just downright boring.