What a cool thing to get in my email this weekend - a review of Fox's new Army comedy Enlisted from a faithful and beloved member of the Badass Digest community, VyceVictus. He's an active duty service member currently deployed overseas, and if anybody was going to be tough on a show that wrings laughs out of people in uniform it would be him. So what did he think?
BLUF*: As a service member, BAD enthusiast, and human being who likes to laugh, I endorse Fox's new Friday night comedy wholeheartedly.
When I first caught word of Enlisted from Devin's column last year, my interest was immediately piqued by a show that involves the US Army shown in a straight up wacky slapstick light. Most 21st century mainstream fictional works that involve the military are marked with either somber seriousness or caustic cynicism, and understandably so. Life in the millennial Armed Forces is no doubt filled with sacrifice, sorrow, frustration, resentment, skepticism, and ruminations on lives wasted, and the existential crisis of justifying great suffering in the name of ideals.
You know what though? Sometimes, its also really fuckin fun:
I am happy to confirm initial reports from Devin that Enlisted is indeed good ol' straight up funny. Some people expressed trepidation upon viewing the trailer and its very "lowest common denominator/generic lowbrow" tone. If I'm being perfectly honest, I do think the show is aiming for those broad laughs and easily interpreted comedy beats, but to it's credit it hits those targets it aims for with the aplomb of someone confident in their skills. It might not display the JDAM** surgical strike comedic precision of something like Louie, but sometimes a big ass carpet bombing of laughs does the trick just as well.
The previous article already discussed the general synopses and character outlines, so I think it's worth expounding a bit on the mechanics of the comedy. There are multiple scenes that involve some jam-packed rapid fire dialogue that are far more formidable than the one-note style jokes that the trailer would suggest. Standouts include the first encounter between lead actor Geoff Stults' SGT Pete Hill and Angelique Cabral's SGT Perez. The interjecting of comments by co-stars and brothers-in-arms-length Chris Lowell and Parker Young as CPL Derrick Hill and PV2 Randy Hill respectively make for a dynamically hilarious exchange. And the first scene between SGT Hill and the statesman Kieth David as CSM Cody takes some particularly hilarious turns ("How'd it get to him yelling at me, I'm yelling at him...").
In fact, the entire cast from the get-go seems great and has good chemistry, which bodes well for just the first episode. Not every soldier gets to shine, but each has enough time to get a great comedy gag or two in. I was surprised to see comedian Ron Funches playing PV2 Huggins. I actually didn't know he was a full time comedian since I recognize him originally from his YouTube skits, but he does a great job here and I look forward to seeing more episodes featuring him and all the other cast members.
Though Kevin Biegel's previous credits include later episodes of Scrubs and the full run of Cougar Town. I haven't seen either of those (living overseas for a decade, you kinda lose pace with normal TV viewing), but Enlisted actually reminds me a lot of another FOX show called Raising Hope.... I should stop right here and caveat this statement since I might lose a lot of you with that one. When I got back to the States I watched a few episodes of Raising Hope, and though it might seem on the surface like yet another LCD lowbrow comedy, I was immediately taken by it's sense of family and compassion. The show had Heart, which is a huge selling point for me in even the seemingly dumbest of comedies (the excellent 2012 hockey fightin' comedy Goon is a great example of this).
On a more personal note, throughout the episode it is learned Derrick resents Pete being gone for such long periods of time without ever making contact with the family. When Pete reveals the reason for his reluctance to keep contact with his loved ones while he was in harm's way, it a was sucker-punch to my gut because I have done the exact same thing. If I recall correctly, I don't even think I told my family I was in Iraq until halfway through the deployment. Both times. I understand now the folly of my ways, but I was sincerely won over by the insight it took to add that element to the character and really solidify a reason for the audience to genuinely care.
I think Enlisted is a worthy addition to anyone's viewing schedule and deserves a chance, despite its Friday night death sentence slot. It wont be the first time FOX buried a TV gem there (I can't be the only guy in the room who loved Sliders). If you've seen it, please share your thoughts in the comments below. If you are also a service member, current or prior, or are familiar with someone who is, I'd also like to hear your take on how well (or poorly) you think the show portrays the life. That reminds me; apparently each episode is kind of a spy hunt to catch errors and I counted at least 3 (aside from the guys clearly being unable to pass a tape test and the facial hair), though I wonder if it's me just being a pedant. Curious to see what constitutes the errors others have caught. Hope to see you all for next week's episode. Peace.
*Bottom Line Up Front: Term often used in military and corporate correspondence but I really hate it, takes away the punchlines!
**Joint Direct Attack Munition: modification kit that turns standard bombs into precision guided munitions aka "smart bombs".
***This is all just an artificial injection of an "Army Doods Love Acronyms" schtick that I'm probably going to drop if the BAD editors actually agree to publish
VyceVictus is an Active Duty Service member, Veteran, Amateur Internet Writer & Comedian, and BadassDigest faithful devotee. Graduate of the School Of Hard Knocks with a Masters in Chest Punching and Minor in Mean Muggin' White People