Enlisted Series Premiere Review: War Is Hell, Preparing for It Is... Pleasant!
So much has been made of the atrocities of war and the grueling experience of the American soldier in epics about saving privates and jackets full of metal. But the life of the enlisted isn't all shellshock, military-grade bed-making, and forlorn gazes at war memorials! Fox's new comedy Enlisted is ready to show us the goofier side of the Armed Forces, as it made evident with a series premiere that was more Meatballs than The Hurt Locker. War might be hell, but staying out of it and living on an Army base while everyone else fights is like summer camp! Seriously, by the end of the pilot I thought these soldiers might go on a mission to prank the fat kids across the lake.
Series creator Kevin Biegel (he wrote for Scrubs and co-created Cougar Town, which is important to note) has taken the idea of brothers-in-arms to the next level with Enlisted, which focuses on a trio of actual brothers who are all assigned to Rear Detachment—the unit that stays behind during wartime to maintain domestic military bases. These not-so-super-soldiers wash tanks, work on sharpening their skills, and, according to Enlisted, come in all shapes and sizes—most of which are rounder, shorter, and/or scrawnier than your average Navy SEAL. Put another way, if these misfits were defending our country, Canada would probably invade. CANADA!
What makes Enlisted one of the more likable new sitcoms of the season is its upbeat personality. The show's assembly of lovable losers is full of charm and impossible not to like, and the Army base setting is a fresh take on the workplace comedy. The cast is outstanding, led by the ridiculously charismatic Geoff Stults, who is finally getting regular work thanks to Fox's love for him (see: The Finder, Ben and Kate, and now Enlisted). Stults plays disgraced beefcake Pete Hill, who's joining his two brothers on the base as punishment for punching his commanding officer. But the real draw here is Parker Young as Randy, the youngest and dumbest Hill sibling and the embodiment of Enlisted's goofy earnestness. You may be familiar with Young from his role as Suburgatory's Ryan Shay, who started out as a side character but quickly became the best part of that show. That act carries on here, and the only real difference between the two characters is that Randy wears a different outfit and has a D in his first name.
However, what makes Enlisted standard as opposed to great—and apparently this is pretty important for a comedy—is its humor. The early episodes are endlessly amusing but never really funny. Humor is subjective, though, and hopefully you found the pilot more of a knee-slapper than I did. If you did, that's awesome, and you should keep watching; I want Enlisted to succeed because it has good heart and plenty of warm fuzzies. But based on what I've seen, my takeaway is that Enlisted is more concerned with holding steady at an elevated pace rather than dropping H-bombs (the H is for hilarious). Jokes come in from all angles rather than with precision focus, and the banter between the three brothers is merely cute, not uproarious. Edgy comedy this is not.
So that's Enlisted. It's a very watchable comedy with a great cast and setting, but it's fairly average when it comes to laughs. Still, it's a good step foward for primetime sitcoms, and television needs more comedies like this. I'll be checking in from time to time and wearing a Support Enlisted ribbon, as I hope the series will rise through the ranks. What did YOU think?
– Does Enlisted have a responsibility to show the seriousness of war? I say no, it's a comedy for crying out loud, but future episodes do bring up issues of PTSD and wives left behind while their husbands are deployed.
– It's interesting that the war games in the pilot too place against an Italian platoon rather than Pete's apparent rival squad led by Sergeant Perez (Angelique Cabral). And can Perez just join in the fight whenever she wants, like she did here? Aren't there rules to these war games?
– There's lots of room for Enlisted to grow with its strong ensemble cast, and the show should take advantage of that by detailing their backstories and focusing on their choices to enlist. That's when Enlisted will get really good.
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