“…..at the end of day, it is a workplace comedy.” Executive Producer Kevin Biegel
By Valerie Milano
(Hollywood Today) 1/11/14 - Enlisted is the most recent entry in a very specialized genre; the military comedy. The standard bearer of the field is still the 1958 film No Time for Sergeants. Which set the bar high while establishing Andy Griffith as an elite-league comic actor. In the 60’s and 70’s MASH was both a successful film and history making television series. MASH resonated with a Vietnam era boomer audience who hated war but still honored the sacrifice of those who fought in them. At the bottom of the food chain, we had the witless hokum of Gomer Pyle USMC (ironically a spin-off of The Andy Griffith Show). Now FOX has weighed in and it looks like Enlisted is a keeper.
Our lead character is US Army Staff Sergeant PETE HILL (Geoff Stults, “Ben and Kate,” “The Finder”); a rugged, handsome veteran sent home from Afghanistan for committing one screw-up. He wants to go back. However, he finds himself banished to a Florida “Rear D” base where soldiers not ready for prime time are assigned to tend to the needs of military families with loved ones off fighting the war. He’s given a troop of lovable and (curiously) non-threatening misfits and goofballs to whip into shape. In the troop are Pete’s two brothers; Corporal DERRICK HILL (Chris Lowell, “Private Practice,” “Veronica Mars”), the middle brother who is mouthy and confrontational and could do fine without military life, and younger brother Private RANDY HILL (Parker Young, “Suburgatory”), who has plenty of clumsy, puppy dog enthusiasm and lives to please big brother Pete. Also, keep an eye on Sergeant JILL PEREZ (Angelique Cabral, “Friends with Benefits”), who is the same rank as Pete Hill and sparkles in every scene she’s in.
Enlisted comes from a different angle than most of our beloved military TV comedy series of the previous century. It reflects the jaded, putdown Zeitgeist of our times. Yet at the same time, it somehow maintains a deft comedy touch and a warm heart.
That said, a major suspension of disbelief is required on our part. It’s doubtful that the blow dried coiffeurs sported by Pete and his brothers would pass military muster, not to mention some of the scraggly facial hair of Pete’s charges. Moreover, it’s hard to swallow a platoon of smelly, ill-groomed soldiers dishing, sassing and snapping with the razor sharp wit of a gay man’s choir as they do on Enlisted. But then again, do we really want the messy realities of war and military life intruding on this brand of escapist entertainment? (See McHale’s Navy, Hogan’s Heroes)
It wasn’t until I started writing this piece that I realized that there was no laugh track. It wasn’t needed. Canned laughs would have only stomped on the tart and smart dialogue that rat-tat-tats machine gun style for the entire duration of the show and nails its targets with impressive regularity. Enlisted shows what a crack writing team can accomplish with a gifted ensemble cast. Moreover, the hard right tendencies of the FOX viewership combined with the ardent embrace by America of all things khaki, augers well for the future of Enlisted. It has the look and feel of a breakout hit ready to detonate.
Just remember to keep your trigger finger on the rewind button of your remote. The barbs and counterpunches come hard, fast and spicy. And when the dialogue is ‘at ease’ there is plenty of sight gags and slapstick to pick up the slack. If you blink, Enlisted will double-time right by you and leave you in the dust. Let’s hope Enlisted hasn’t used up all its ordnance on its opening sortie.
Journalists had the opportunity to talk with executive producer Mike Royce. Creator, writer, executive producer Kevin Biegel. And actors Geoff Stults, Chris Lowell, Parker Young, Angelique Cabral, and Keith David.
Executive producer Kevin Biegel talked about his personal connection to the series: KEVIN BIEGEL, “I’ve got two younger brothers, and after Cougar Town, I really wanted to do something that was really intensely personal, my relationship with my two younger brothers is the longest, best relationship I have in my life and they’ve been there with me through really difficult times and really great times and we’re still kind of locked into that 16 year old mentality sometimes, and I thought it would be fun to write to something that was very much like that and then, also, write to something that kind of indulged in a world that I grew up in a little bit with a lot of family and friends in the military. So I just thought it would be good to set a show in world that is very intensely about brotherhood.”
Leading man Geoff Stults elaborated on the fraternal theme running through Enlisted:
GEOFF STULTS: The dynamic is about the relationship of three brothers who just so happen to be working together. So not only do we have to navigate working together, but we have to navigate the fact that I’m their boss and what happens when, during the day, I’m their boss, but at night, I’m just their brother and treated accordingly, so we have a lot of fun with that.”
Executive producer Keven Biegel spoke about the contrast that exists between the grisly realities of war and the humor that can be found in military life: KEVIN BIEGEL, “… It’s really, really important to me and to Mike and to the entire cast as well to make sure the show is never appearing mocking or disrespectful. That’s just not what this show is. I have a lot of friends who do this job. And one thing that always struck me when I thought about doing a show that was set in the military is every time you see military in pop culture, it’s one of two things. It’s either the superhero, call of duty soldier who has no personality or it’s someone so racked by PTSD that they can’t even function. And those exist and that’s a reality, but there’s also a great swath of people in the middle do this job and they do it nobly and they love it and they get frustrated by it sometimes and sometimes they do have a lot of fun doing it. We’re talking about 25 million people who are either active service members or veterans. And to say that they all have to fit into these two camps just didn’t seem right and it didn’t seem fair to the experience of people that I know and I’ve loved. So, yeah, we wanted to set the show in this world and we wanted to set a show showing this kind of, yes, group of misfits, because it’s a very particular base and a very particular set of troops. We’re certainly not saying that all soldiers are like this.”
Biegel hinted that (like MASH) Enlisted will evolve and tackle heavier situations in future episodes: KEVIN BIEGEL, “I think the nice thing too for all these guys is that it might not be readily apparent, and especially in the trailer that was cut for the pilot, but even in the pilot itself, there’s going to be heavier things that the show deals with because it has to. And you can’t do I don’t think you can do a military show right now and not kind of acknowledge some of the realities of war and what it’s like to have been at war. So the show is going to go there…”
During the interview it became apparent that part of the show’s mission was to present soldiers as normal, everyday people: KEVIN BIEGEL. “Well, we certainly don’t want to feel like we’re on a soapbox, telling people how to feel about certain things. Our job is just to basically try to be as realistic to the situation as possible and these characters as possible, because at the end of day, it is a workplace comedy. It’s just a different type of workplace. But I do think that since if we can kind of get rid of that sense of kid gloves, that “You can’t tell soldier stories because they’re delicate individuals,” well, that’s horse crap, I’m sorry, to be very blunt. They are some of the funniest, best people I know. They have amazing stories, so it’s okay to talk.”