Enlisted, Fox’s comedy about the Rear Detachment set at a (fictional) Florida Army base called Fort McGee, premieres this Friday at 9:30PM ET/PT (after Raising Hope). We offered the producers some unsolicited advice a few months back and now the show is finally making its debut after a delay from its planned November debut. If you’ve been watching football games on Fox for the last few weeks, you’ve seen the commercials.
Fox sent us the first four episodes, so we’ve got an idea of where they’re going with this and what changes they’ve made since they shot the pilot last spring.
Creator Kevin Biegel previously worked on Scrubs and Cougar Town and he’s said up front that he had the first hour of Stripes “playing on repeat” while he and Mike Royce (Men of a Certain Age) wrote the pilot. At its heart, the show is a workplace comedy and, at its best, has as little to do with the Army as The Office has to do with companies that actually sell office supplies.
When images from the pilot got out this past spring, folks from the hyper-sensitive wing of the military community (who obviously had never actually seen the show) howled about how Hollywood gets everything wrong and doesn’t respect the troops. The producers went out and hired some military consultants to help with the details and set out to make a series.
The network wasn’t going to reshoots the pilot, so they’ve decided to air the show with a “Spot Our SNAFUs” contest. Viewers can write down all the mistakes and send them in to get a free Enlisted Challenge Coin. Thin-skinned readers they think a fake challenge coin is disrespectful can just go straight to the comments and blow their tops. (Fox will announce that address after the show airs: come back here and we’ll add it to this post.)
Then, just to show they were serious, the cast went to Boot Camp so they could better understand the issues faced by Rear Detachment troops. Fox made a seven-episode web series about the experience and webisode one is above.
Enlisted revolves around three brothers: Sgt. Pete Hill (Geoff Stults) is a “super-soldier” who gets sent home from Afghanistan after punching a clueless commanding officer. He lands in a Rear Detachment at Fort McGee and is reunited by his younger brothers (Derrick) and Randy (Parker Young). They report to Command Sgt. Major Donald Cody (Keith David), who also happened to be a friend of their father before dad was killed in combat. Pete finds a nemesis/potential love interest in Sgt. Jill Perez (Angelique Cabral).
Of course, the most important question about a TV show is always, “Is it funny?” Getting the details right in a movie a like Zero Dark Thirty was critical to the mission and the actors in Lone Survivor probably really did need the full boot camp experience to prepare for their intense roles.
Sgt. Vince Carter says, “I’m not going to BOOT CAMP. I’m only PRETENDING to be a Marine.”
Enlisted works best when it’s goofiest. The dumber Randy acts, the funnier he is. Keith David (so memorable as “King” in Platoon) steals practically every scene he’s in. The smaller roles are filled by actors who probably wouldn’t meet the physical requirements to serve but they’re best when they’re providing a surreal counterpoint to Stults’ straight man.
The episodes don’t seem to be running in the order they were written or shot. “Randy Get Your Gun” (airing 1/17) and “Prank War” (airing 1/24) seem to take place after Pete Hill has come to terms with his fate and gotten used to his new surroundings. “Pete’s Airstream” (airing 2/14) seems to roll back to the character’s first days at Fort McGee.
So, Enlisted is pretty funny. It’s not as funny as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which leaves out the emotional connection stuff and just sticks to being a straight-up tribute to Barney Miller. It’s also not as smutty as all the Chuck Lorre comedies on CBS. If they concentrate on the goofiness (and do more with the West Point 2nd Lieutenant character who shows up to oversee Cody in “Prank War”), then we might just have a show worth watching over the long haul.