Friday, July 29, 2005

Over Where?

The other night, I caught the debut episode of the new original series on FX called Over There. In the tradition of M*A*S*H and Tour of Duty, Over There (OT) is a show set in one of America's wars; in this case, the War in Iraq, which is currently still operating. I had seen previews for OT, and what I saw looked pretty good. The combat scenes had that Saving Private Ryan, Blackhawk Down realistic quality, and the technical department seemed to get everything right as far as uniforms and equipment were concerned. I have to admit, I was looking forward to watching this show. Unfortunately, I am not looking forward to episode two. Allow me explain why.

First of all, the TV critic in the Sacramento Bee had nothing but glowing things to say about OT. He said that politics were left out of it and it just concentrated on the soldiers and their daily lives in the hostile environment of Iraq. He kept insisting that everything was neutral and there was nothing to get the left or the right riled up about this show. Shee-yeah, right. I spent 12 years in the United States Army. While I was only an adminstrative specialist and not an infantryman or anything like that, I did spend time in the field, and I did spend six months in a semi-hostile area (Macedonia). There were so many errors and misconceptions, I scarcely know where to begin. So in that case, let's begin at that very beginning of the show.

The episode began with a series of vignettes here in the states, introducing the different characters as they prepared to ship out to Iraq. The first thing you notice is that almost every one of them fits the Michael Moore profile of the average soldier: Low socioeconomically no matter which race, dysfunctional family, in the military because they have to be not because they want to be.

Admittedly, I met soldiers like that when I was in, especially soldiers who were ranked Private through Specialist. However, they were definitely not the rule. Most were just regular folks from good families... like me, who were patriotic and maybe wanted to do a little growing up before they went back to their regular lives.

I always get a chuckle out of military shows and movies from Hollywood, because the writers always think that everyone in the Army has a nickname. Not surprisingly, almost every character in OT had a nickname, such as Dim, Mrs. B, Double Wide, Angel, Smoke. I am searching my brain, and in my 12 years, not a single nicknamed soldier comes to mind in any of the units I was in. And yet this one unit in OT has five.

When the character "Smoke" is introduced, he is on base at his motor pool, standing out in the open smoking a joint. Yeah, good luck. Motor pools tend to be centers of activity; you would get caught in a nanosecond. Next, do you know how often soldiers get urinalysis testing? The whole scene looked rather anachronistic. If the show was supposed to take place in the 1970s, I could buy that scene a little easier.

Once the unit is out in the desert, they set up a perimeter near this mosque that they are not allowed to attack. At one point, it is night time, and they leave their positions to deploy forward to a closer position, then they dig in again. Mrs. B is not digging her hole fast enough, so two male soldiers try to help her. She begins yelling at them that she doesn't need any help, the enemy hears the commotion, and all hell comes raining down on the troops. When you are on a perimeter with the enemy close by, you know as a soldier and as a human being who wants to live, that you don't make noise. For Mrs. B to turn into a belligerent feminist right there on the battlefield was just a ridiculous piece of Hollywood pap. This scene reinforced the writers' notion that our soldiers are a bunch of dim bulbs. It made me sick.

Then there was the roadside bomb at the end of the episode. How nice of the terrorists in OT to mark the bombs with little flags sticking out of the dirt (although the Americans failed to notice them anyway, and a 5 ton truck got blown up). Improvised Explosive Devices in Iraq are hidden in dead animals, coffee cans, abandoned cars, and watermelons, but they are definitely not marked with helpful little flags. Also, common soldier knowledge is that when you stop a convoy in those conditions, you NEVER pull off to the side of the road, you stay parked right in the middle.

I could go on, but I'm sure you get my point. I was highly disappointed with
Over There. The producers had a chance to do a great thing, but once again, leftist Hollywood politics got in the way. What a shame.

Good Day to you, Sir.


George said...

I had read this same critique from guys who were really over there. I can understand the fantastic elements of the series, as it would probably be pretty boring watching soldiers clean their weapons, sleep, and play grab fanny while waiting to go out on patrol. Sad thing is that most folks who don't do their homework will take this as the gospel.

Asher Styrsky said...

Wade... Mike sent me a link to your blog. How cool! I actually started Tivo'ing this series hoping it would be my new show of choice. I have to agree with your take on it that it is way over-dramatized... but thats pretty much what I expected from a mini-series tv type thing. Here is the million dollar question though... : Are you going to watch future episodes? I didn't take it off my tivo list. :)

BTW, I did watch episode two and found it to be much more enjoyable than the first one.


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