Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

January 11, 2014 at 10:53am

Review of new Fox TV Army comedy "Enlisted"

"Enlisted" makes our D-List. Photo courtesy of Fox

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Military sitcoms shouldn't work. There's really nothing funny about war.  But the funniest thing is that they have worked, time and again. Since the mid-1950s, when television was just beginning its reign over America's living rooms, we've been treated to a combat comedy cavalcade filled with classic shows like F Troop, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Hogan's Heroes, C.P.O. Sharkey and, of course, M*A*S*H.  All of these shows live on in our memories and in reruns, but when M*A*S*H ended in 1983, military sitcoms went with it.  Major Dad tried to revive the genre in 1989, but that proved to just be the death rattle, lasting only a handful of seasons.

FOX wants to bring the military sitcom back to the forefront with EnlistedIt's a new century, a new America and a new generation of television viewers. Could Enlisted be the show that reintroduces the military sitcom to the public consciousness?

I really hope not.

When Staff Sgt. Pete Hill (Geoff Stults), a self-proclaimed "supersoldier" stationed in Afghanistan, slugs a superior officer, he's reassigned to Fort McGee, Florida, and put in charge of a platoon in the base's Rear Detachment Unit.  "Rear D" handles the daily operations and maintenance duties on base as well as looks out for deployed troops' families. Pete's in good company though: his younger brothers Derek (Chris Lowell) and Randy (Parker Young) are also stationed at Fort McGee in the Rear D.  Throw in a prerequisite love interest (Angelique Cabral), a gruff commanding officer (Keith David), add a handful of grunts and you have the makings for a decent, if a bit uninspired, sitcom.

It's all downhill from there.

What follows is a half-hour of sitcom jokes and tropes of yesteryear given a new coat of camo paint that's a little too thin.  An inept soldier fires off a mortar and, surprise, he blows up something he shouldn't.  A petite, female soldier going through a divorce displays irrational hostility toward her male colleagues.  There's a duo of bumbling, overweight men in the platoon who clearly don't qualify for military service by even the laxest physical standards.  The camera lingers on a sign labeled "War Games: No Vehicles" for a good 5 seconds, and a tank crashes through it.  All that's missing is a sad trombone going "Waw waw waw waaaaaw ..." before each commercial break.  "If you're in the military and you're stationed on base, then you must be horribly incompetent" seems to be the overarching theme of the series.

Then there are the occasional quasi-racist jokes. They're not mean-spirited, but they're not especially funny either. I'm not sure if referring to a Hispanic soldier as having "a nacho chip on her shoulder" and making fun of a Black soldier's Caucasian-colored prosthetic leg is appropriate humor for network television in 2014.

Everything about Enlisted is FUBAR. It's offensive and insulting, especially to the men and women of the Armed Forces; seemingly the series' target demographic.  (Though, to their credit, FOX made correcting various inaccuracies and giving donations to various military charities a significant part of the series' marketing/damage control campaign.) The characters are cartoonish and unbelievable.  The jokes, and I use that term very loosely, are absurdly lazy and predictable. The dialogue is overwrought and unrealistically "snappy", with the obvious stench of numerous punch-up and rewrite sessions looming thick and heavy over every scene. It brings virtually nothing new to the table, playing out its tired premise while notably lacking any of the wit and charm that made its predecessors classics.

Expect this dud to be MIA by the end of the season and KIA come next fall.

ENLISTED, TV-14 for language and violence, 9:30 p.m., Fridays, Fox Network

Filed under: Army, Military, Screens,
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