So I imagine most vets had a similar reaction to seeing ads for the new FOX television series Enlisted:

Enlisted

Why I Immediately Wrote Off Enlisted

My immediate thoughts were hair too long, hands in his pocket, sleeves pulled up, Ranger tab not in the correct spot (pocket flap)… not going to watch this or the former NCO in me would prevent me from being able to enjoy the show itself. I envisioned other ways TV shows (Over There, Army Wives) or movies (Hurt Locker, Stop Loss, Green Zone, The Lucky Ones) have portrayed the post 9/11 military and only a very small selection left me satisfied. In most, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is misrepresented to make all war veterans seem like unstable alcoholics who overreact to all stimuli (like Zac Efron’s character in The Lucky One, a recently separated Marine who is awoken by his nephews and immediately choke slams one to his bed and holds him there while he stares at his face). That usually bugs me the most. Next comes the whole military bearing, or “that would never happen” phase of watching these shows and movies. If I could view these shows and movies without the knowledge I have of the military, I could understand why people thought Hurt Locker or Stop Loss were good movies, but that’s just impossible for me now. I mean really, an EOD element is going to leave the FOB in just one humvee?

What changed my mind about this show? It all started on Friday morning while taking my kids up to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and I got to listen to one of my favorite morning shows from when I used to work in Northern VA… Elliot in the Morning on DC 101. On Friday, Elliot interviewed Geoff Stults, who plays the lead character and is one of the main drivers for the show. Elliot gave the show high praises for being funny, but that did nothing to change my mind. It was not until Geoff Stults began addressing the very things I was concerned about — how to show proper respect to the military, military culture, and the very real lives of soldiers and veterans while still creating a funny show. He convinced me the actors really wanted to represent the military well by describing the show’s military advisors (which I’ve since come to learn are both former commissioned officers… maybe a mistake as any soldier knows a non-commissioned officer has a MUCH better understanding of how life is for the enlisted folks) sending them to “basic training” (which is documented in a seven-episode FOX YouTube webisode titled BootCamp). While it was not the nine weeks of crap I endured, I admire the fact that these actors let a real drill sergeant yell at them, inspect their rooms, and teach them how to soldier. So ok… that’s enough to convince me to watch the pilot and second episode, which I finally did online on FOX’s website (but see it’s also available on Hulu).

Pilot Episode

Some of my worst fears were realized almost immediately. A fire support or quick reaction force (QRF) mission being scrubbed for a computer being down and having the SSG on the ground yell to the enemy asking if they have a working PC… yeah I wasn’t very impressed. Then he gets to the TOC and doesn’t know who the LTC is that is calling the shots… at this level, most likely his battalion commander to be a LTC in his TOC. Entertaining, but not realistic. Oh and then he punches him… that’s most likely a court martial, not non-judicial punishment. So let’s say that guy was really cool and did only give him a non-judicial punishment, one grade reduction to SGT, the immediate reassignment to some random rear detachment, and the fact that he gets this news while riding on a helicopter also made me laugh. But I’m giving this a shot right? I decide to forgive that.

I won’t go into the same amount of detail for the rest of the episode… I’m sure I could write TONS. Suffice to say, a lot happened that immediately stole my attention. For those that don’t know the plot, my short synopsis is older brother gets demoted and sent to a rear detachment led by a friend of his deceased dad and also the same unit his two younger brothers are assigned to because they suck at being soldiers. The show immediately had something I personally just don’t like, even in SITCOMs… which is too many unrealistic, over the top attempts to be funny. I didn’t like how over the top ridiculous they made the youngest brother (PV2 Randy Hill, played by Parker Young). I also didn’t like how the recently demoted SGT Pete Hill (the main character played by Stults) is a platoon sergeant right off the bat and has the typical, unrealistic gang of misfits. Although… I almost spit my beer over my laptop when they showed a chubby CPL and panned to his name tape — Chubowski (played by Mel Rodriguez) — even before the ironic name is specifically called out. Finally, I didn’t like how the middle brother, CPL Derrick Hill, played by Chris Lowell, had his blouse unzipped the entire episode, including while standing in the Command Sergeant Major’s (CSM) office. Friend or not, rear-D or not, nobody shows disrespect while being dressed down by the CSM.

Despite these first observations, the show then took a turn. I’m not sure what it was… maybe it was just the quality of acting and the entertaining story line. By the end of the first episode… I realized I didn’t hate the show and kind of wanted to actually see the second episode. I’m glad I made it there.

Episode 2 – Randy Get Your Gun

The second episode really changed things around. The only two things that disturbed me was the rocker returning to the main characters rank–he was all of a sudden a SSG again–and they all had a different unit patch than in the pilot. This can simply be explained by the show tightening up the military details after the pilot and as I later learned through Twitter, making Hill a SSG again negated them having to explain his situation every episode and made his position more believable. Ok. I can live with that:

But outside of that, the episode was brilliant. Obviously no rear detachment is going to be qualifying on those types of targets, nor will they be likely to have ACOGs on their weapons, but I loved the range safety whipping out his paddle. I think I can even live with the fact that the show forgets rear detachments only exist for units currently deployed, and so they carry the same unit’s designations and patches. What they got right in this episode was everything from showing and respecting the pains and hardships of military spouses left home while their significant others deploy… they even correctly pointed out Family Readiness Groups (FRG) as the official Army organization (there’s so many directions they can go with this too in the future). They really did tighten up the wear and appearance standards, and they demonstrated some true NCO-like qualities in training younger soldiers to the standard (or in this case, an older brother helping his younger brother but still). But then of course, there was tons of very good acting and comedy. I don’t want to give away much of the plot on this one, but I laughed out loud multiple times while watching it alone.. that is the true test of any comedy. Mr. Potato Head and lamps will make laugh for the next few days I’m sure.

In a nutshell, the show is good enough to ignore any inconsistencies with military uniform standards, and definitely funny enough to not notice the moments where real soldiers know ‘that would never happen.’

Why I’m Now a Huge Enlisted Fan

After watching the first two episodes last night, I decided to check out a few things on Twitter. Having just recently returned from Afghanistan and finally getting readjusted to home life, I hadn’t had much time to just sit, relax, and get back to reading and writing things I actually want to read and write (like this post!).

Can I just say I’m blown away by the cast? First there was Geoff Stults interview on EIM that led me even consider watching the show. Then as I began engaging a bit on Twitter, I was even more impressed.

I didn’t mention this before, but there is one character that will definitely keep me coming back to the show. Angelique Cabral plays the ‘other’ platoon sergeant, SSG Jill Perez, and while stunningly beautiful in ACUs, she’s also a very believable NCO. But after interactions on Twitter and then listening to her interview today with a web-based veteran radio show, I’m now a huge fan. It wasn’t just Angelique… even Geoff Stults and Mel Rodriguez were engaging fans as well. On top of that, the cast and crew of the show are working with veteran’s organizations and supporting military charities, such as the #EnlistedSalutes featured right on their site to support Operation Gratitude.

I’ve included some of the interactions I had today with the cast as I discovered more about them and the show. But I leave you with my recommendation to watch this show and be ready to laugh.

And just because you’re probably thinking it, I don’t just like the show because Angelique Cabral replied to me on Twitter… I noticed she replied to just about everybody! It’s the fact that the cast is engaging fans and the military, and they’re willing to discuss real military topics. It indicates this isn’t just a comedy show they’re doing, they also want to correctly represent the men and women who serve. Best of luck to you Enlisted!

5 thoughts

    1. Haha, thank you for the correction! That was mostly a joke of course, you know we NCOs like to take our friendly jabs at the commissioned officer corps whenever possible.

      1. I’m the NCO that Greg is referring to. I was an Infantry NCO in the 101st from 2004-2009. I spent every day on set fixing as much as we possibly could so vets and active duty could relax and enjoy the show. We all know that nothing ruins a military show or movie like having actually served in the military and having all the little inaccuracies staring us in the face. It makes it hard to hear the jokes. So hopefully we fixed that. Also Greg’s cool, he started out as an enlisted grunt then went to OCS. Not your typical officer. Glad you’re enjoying the show!

      2. I was also one of the consultants, although my work was solely over email when the initial pilot and early episodes were being written. I’m former 3/75, and another 3/75 guy helped out early on as well. Lots of the early questions were, “Could this happen? Would someone say this? Is this realistic?” Lots of my replies were, “No, but it’s pretty funny, and not too much of a stretch.” It was disappointing that some vets found the show irreverent; I wish they would get over it and laugh a little. There’s no possible way for all the details to be perfect, so they just need to let that go.

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