Enlisted Series Premiere Review: War Is Hell, Preparing for It Is... Pleasant!

By Tim Surette

Jan 11, 2014

Enlisted S01E01: "Pilot"


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?



ROLL CALL

– 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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  • flintslady Jan 20, 2014

    They had me at Piz.

  • BranislavIvkovi Jan 15, 2014

    abc always uses the same actors, that's all.

  • ElenaTrikou Jan 13, 2014

    So much fun!! Love it!

  • erinahbing Jan 13, 2014

    M*E*S*S

  • SarahFloyd Jan 12, 2014

    I gave it a chance in response to the reviews on several sites saying it was actually good (I had written it off from the first announcement that Fox had picked up the pilot). It is actually rather good, after The Goldbergs probably the best comedy pilot/episode I have watched this season.

    Saying that not quite my type of show and I will not be picking up the rest of the season - but wish the show well and if it ever comes on while I'm waiting for something would be quite happy to watch.

    Sticking with The Goldbergs for some humor to try to balance out the drama's.

  • caesteckered Jan 12, 2014

    I liked it. There's a sweetness and heart to it that recalls Go On (sorry to bring it up, but I still miss that show!). Randy is easily the standout - what with his retroactive feelings and "Upswing!".

  • Boogiebilly Jan 12, 2014

    i wanted to like it but it seemed a little retarded. Just too STUPID stupid rather than FUNNY stupid. Maybe it will improve. Will give it one more look...

  • spklvr12 Jan 12, 2014

    I was sold at "man flowers". This is the type of stupid-smart humor that I love.

  • silverscreenluv Jan 12, 2014

    Tim, out of all the weird things that went on during the wargames, Perez joining in seems like the least of them.

  • silverscreenluv Jan 12, 2014

    I thought this was mildly entertaining, but it's not very clever. This is just too ridiculous, but not in the genius way that scrubs was ridiculous. I think if you want to watch a goofy military comedy you're better off with Bluestone 42, which is hilarious. Geoff Stults really is awesome though. He should find a better show.

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