So there I was, caught in an almost endless scroll of TV shows offered on streaming services. With a multitude of options, I was doing more searching than watching. I had to clean the house and wanted something to listen to. Since the Office left Netflix, I’ve been coming up short on mindless, easy-watching TV. I found a show called Enlisted. I vaguely remember hearing about it way back when, and that was solely because the creator of Terminal Lance popped up on set and posted on social media about it.
Since I was tired of scrolling, I popped it on and started cleaning. I worked for only a few minutes before I stopped to watch for a bit. Then I’d get back to work, stop again, and repeat this pattern a few too many times. I wasn’t watching the show, and I wasn’t getting much cleaning done. I took Ron Swanson’s advice; instead of half-assing two things, I whole-assed one thing. I sat down and watched Enlisted.
To do this day, some say my house still needs to be cleaned….
‘Enlisted’ – A short history
In 2014 I was working, barely writing, and certainly not watching much TV. I never even saw a commercial for Enlisted. Sadly, not a whole lot of people knew the show existed. Those who did might have been turned off by the terrible promo Fox put out before the show. They didn’t know how to advertise it: the trailer that Fox came up with must have turned many people away.
Most of the reasons why this show failed were due to Fox. Besides that terrible trailer, Fox did the Fox thing and essentially sabotaged the show. First, it scheduled it for Fridays. Who the hell watches network TV on Friday? Second, they moved the timeslots around. It was first at 21:30, then 21:00.
Finally, they aired the episodes out of order. The idea behind the strategy was to air the stronger episodes first to generate buzz. However, the show had a somewhat serial nature with relationships that didn’t work with the episodes aired out of order.
Enlisted was created by Kevin Beigel. Kevin had worked on Scrubs and South Park in the past and dreamt up the idea behind Enlisted as a workplace comedy.
Unlike other workplace comedies, the workplace would be the United States army. Specifically, the rear detachment of a unit forward employed to Afghanistan.
Related: ‘First Casualty’: A gripping account of the CIA in Afghanistan after 9/11
The premise of Enlisted
The soldiers of the rear detachment are a mix of outsiders, misfits, and slackers who serve at the fictional Fort McKee in Florida. The show starts with SSgt Peter Hill punching a colonel who denied his squad backup in a firefight. For that, he’s sent home from Afghanistan to Rear D, where his two brothers, slacker Corporal Derrick Hill and motivated but idiotic PFC Randy Hill, are stationed. He is both their brother and platoon sergeant.
The show then catalogs the daily life of a Rear D detachment in silly ways. It’s very 2014 and highlights several memes and themes. This includes asking celebrities to military balls and soldiers lip-syncing for Youtube.
If you’re looking for Generation Kill in terms of military accuracy, this isn’t it. I doubt Cheers portrayed running a bar accurately, so I’m not a stickler for accuracy in a half-hour comedy. I’m a stickler for comedy, and I found the show funny.
Keith David, as the sergeant major of Rear D, killed it. Also, the West Point Graduate, 2nd LT being a giant tool killed it for me. The few scenes where they interact with Marines are hilarious, and I say that as a Marine.
It’s an enjoyable military show in the same vein as MASH. Although it’s about the military, it’s made for everybody.
Military advisors are often hired to flesh out the action and the realism. I’d bet those same advisors have some great barracks stories that would have made for hilarious premises.
Related: The best military movies of the 1990s
Getting real with it
The show also does something right that most, if not all, civilian-created military shows miss. It portrays SSgt Hill coming home from war and experiencing PTSD without making it an after-school special. The issue is not taken lightly, but it also doesn’t make up his entire personality.
He’s still a good guy, leader, and soldier, and a normal person. He has difficulties and asks for help; he isn’t portrayed as a failure by his leadership or his troops. For a half-hour sitcom, it’s probably the best mainstream illustration of PTSD I’ve ever seen.
As mentioned, Enlisted does not portray the military accurately but does occasionally capture some of the absurdity and hilarity. This might be unintentional, but there are a few scenes that seemed ripped out of the average day of a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, or Airman. Hell, even some of the supposed “misfits” in the platoon are almost archetypes in the modern military. We just needed a guy with a serious anime addiction to round it out.
The show all-around had some serious potential and could’ve explored some more absurdity within the military.
Where to watch it
Here’s the good news: the show is available now for streaming on Hulu. They even put the episodes in the correct order, so the show now makes sense.
It’s only 13 episodes, and in the end, I was left wanting more. I think Enlisted should have had a few more seasons to explore the characters, make fun of the military environment, and really gain some traction. Sadly, Fox pulled a Firefly and killed the show before it got a real chance.
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