Caveat: Kevin Biegel, creator of Enlisted, is a friend of mine. He sends me weird pictures of butts and sexually suggestive carrots and stuff. He goes to Butt-Numb-A-Thon and we often gorge on BBQ when in Texas. That's how I got to watch four episodes of his show, and how I'm able to tell you it's really good. If the show wasn't good I would just quietly never speak to Kevin about it again, and I certainly wouldn't be writing about it.
But it is really good! The premise is simple: Pete Hill is the best soldier in the whole Army, but when he decks a superior officer he gets sent home from Afghanistan to a rinky-dink rear deployment base in Florida. It happens to be the base where his brothers are stationed; one is Derrick, a sardonic slacker who hates the Army and the other is Randy, who loves the Army and wants to be a super soldier like Pete but is dim-witted and generally incapable. Pete is put in charge of a squad of losers and misfits, and he serves under the auspices of Sergeant Major Cody, played by the one and only Keith David. Hijinks, as you imagine, ensue.
Enlisted has some of the feel of Stripes while also maintaining a surprising amount of heart; the trio of brothers is based on Kevin and his two brothers (of course the handsomest, most capable brother is based on Kevin) and that makes the emotion more real. This is Biegel getting across lots of feelings about his own family, while also making toilet jokes.
The pilot, which airs this Friday, is okay. It's not the best of the episodes, and I think the war games stuff at the end doesn't quite work. But even over the course of the four episodes I've seen the improvement is extraordinary; each episode is funnier and more assured than the last, and the show has already begun to hit a stride with these characters. It's not quite as absurd as fellow Fox sitcom Brooklyn Nine Nine, but it certainly is on a similar level when it comes to ensemble work and comedy.
While the ensemble is great, the standout character is Randy. Played by Parker Young, Randy is the most lovable dummy to hit TV screens in forever. He has such a purity and so much heart that you simply have to adore him. Young plays it perfectly, often wearing a confused but hopeful look as he bounds around behind his brothers like a puppy. I hope that as Enlisted goes on they keep the right balance of Randy - he's the kind of character who could become overwhelming if not used in the correct doses. So far he's in the correct doses.
Keith David is great as well, and he is clearly having the time of his life. While there's an inherent slobs vs snobs thing going on in Enlisted, the show isn't interested in doing traditional bad guys, and so Keith David - while a hardass - is more of a paternal figure to the boys. There are some occasional jerks and enemies who come up in the course of the show, but Keith David is never one of them.
Fox is burying Enlisted in a Friday night slot, which is a bummer. It's a show that's funny and likable and features lots of handsome boys in uniform. By the end of the four episodes I watched I was a legit fan of the show, and I think it's definitely worth a watch. Hell, I think it's worth a season pass on your DVR.
One last thing: the folks behind Enlisted know they're not getting every detail about Army life absolutely correct, so they're going to be running a contest where you spot the mistakes they make in uniforms and stuff (the hair is obviously already kind of outside of Army canon, if we're talking about this like it's an adaptation). I like that, and it reflects the laid-back, fun air of the show.