The opening scene in the Pilot episode tries to be a comedy set during
the war in Afghanistan, which is instantly not funny. The argument might
simply be that it's too soon. A sitcom about the war on terror, done
the way Enlisted does it, is too soon to happen now. Creator
Kevin Biegel thankfully goes away from that opening and any possibility
of returning to it very quickly. This is good because he was essentially
making light of something that shouldn't be, at least not in this way.
Where he takes the show is to not-so-sacred ground but still rather
shaky ground for a stupid comedy.
Geoff Stults (7th Heaven and The Finder) stars as Sgt. Pete Hill who is assigned to the Rear Detachment Unit in Fort McGee, Florida. He learns that his two younger brothers are also assigned to this unit. His middle brother is Derrick, played by Chris Lowell (Veronica Mars and Private Practice). Derrick's defining characteristics are being cynical and sarcastic. His youngest brother is Randy, played by Parker Young (Suburgatory). Randy's defining trait is that he's a really handsome idiot who's very sensitive and aggressively loving.
Pete's defining traits are that he's arrogant, macho and proud. He thinks he's a super soldier. He certainly thinks he's a better soldier than the rest of the Rear Detachment Unit, and for the most part he's right. The problem is that it's one thing to suggest that there are soldiers in the U.S. Army who are sub-par and who by any measure shouldn't be there, but the premise of this show is that there actually are soldiers who are sub-par and who actually shouldn't be there.
Yes, it's a comedy, but, in Episode 2, it's revealed that Derrick cheated in order to get Randy to pass his artillery and marksmanship tests. How is Randy's incompetence about artillery and marksmanship, and getting as far as he does in the Army supposed to be funny or in any way something we should laugh at? In a episode like Episode 2, what exactly is the joke? Is it that we have incompetent soldiers in our ranks, or is it that we have cheaters that get away with cheating in the military?
That's not funny. That's offensive! Given the real-life military cheating scandals in the Navy and Air Force with regard to nuclear operations, it makes this even less a laughing matter.
At the end of Episode 2, neither Derrick or Randy see the true error of cheating in that either is made responsible. The point is instead made that Randy is not good with artillery but he is good at being sweet and nurturing to army spouses, which is fine. Yet, the way that this show gets to that point is rather disgraceful. It's wrong-headed because you don't get a sense of what the Rear Detachment actually does. It's not until Episode 5 that the series even approaches a glimpse of what Rear Detachment's duties are.
It really doesn't take until Episode 8 that we feel what the real impact of what Rear Detachment can do. Up until then, the series is just soldiers being wacky and goofy, and I simply don't get what that gets us. There is evidence that soldiers do wacky and goofy things in real life. One recent thing is a "Call Me Maybe" parody video, but that can be interpreted as an outlet, a way of relieving stress under the pressure of being in a war zone, or a desperate attempt to impress the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders. Yet, what can be the interpretation of the goofiness in Enlisted?
I'm not saying that a comedy set in the military can't exist post-September 11. The premise here is simply ill-conceived. It's almost as if at first the series wanted to take the same tack as Four Lions (2010), where we're supposed to mock the stupidity of those in Rear Detachment. Yet, the show is slowly turning itself around to get us to really like Rear Detachment.
Unfortunately, aside from the three brothers and their boss, Sgt. Major Donald Cody, played by Keith David, there isn't much that the show does to distinguish or endear us to the other Rear Detachment members. Why each is interesting or special is totally lost on me. Perhaps, there are too many, but other series like Community and Parks and Recreation never had that problem.
The series has had interesting cameos like the rap group Kid N' Play and even some interesting guest stars like multiple Emmy-nominee and Oscar-nominee Dean Stockwell (Quantum Leap). Unfortunately, I don't think Stockwell or Barry Bostwick for that matter were well-used or given enough.
Three Stars out of Five.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Fridays at 9:30PM on FOX.