I always fantasized about a leading black man in a series and when I noticed The Unit, I said, "it will not last long - remember Taye Diggs back in 2006 when DAYBREAK on ABC was first aired - that lasted only 4 episodes before they took if off the air. They never allowed it to air the entire 13 episodes and I ended up watching the remaining episodes over the internet. So I never even tried to watch THE UNIT it when it was in prime time because I didn't want to be teased. i do not count crime dramas with black males such as Criminal Minds or NCIS with LL Cool J because they are formulaic and predictable. When one goes on a military mission undercover, now that is special and unique, unpredictable and unconventional in the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE mode.
Now I am a former Army Ranger AND U.S. Marine who trained with Seal Team VI who used to watch JAG on syndication because I never believed that military style dramas could stay on the air for long. You see, I left prime time TV watching when The Cosby Show left the airwaves because I found nothing relevant or worth watching on television except Documentaries which is all I ever watch, other than the NBA games.
Once DVRs came out, I started recording JAG but kind of lost interest after a few years because of the creation of Free Speech TV, LinkTV and The Documentary Channel, all on DirecTV. Therefore there was never any reason for me to come out of my documentary cave and venture into prime time TV. I never understood the fascination with CSI unless a viewer is a criminal looking for ways to not get caught.
So along comes THE UNIT. First, for me, it started with David Mamet. I love his writing, and always have and always will. My fascination with action movies or shows is all aligned with the fact that I am a martial artist for over 35 years and get bored with gun play in action dramas. Unless the plot or story line comes at me ala Jason Bourne style, then I am not interested - I love HONG KONG styled action movies with great fight choreography. I would always say that American movies with guns are boring because it takes discipline to kick someone's ass and look good doing it (Donnie Yen movies or just watch ANY of the Jackie Chan POLICE STORY movies especially SUPERCOP with Michelle Yeoh).
Now back to David Mamet. Watch his movie Red Belt. Ok now watch his great movie SPARTAN with Val Kilmer. Now THAT is how I remember my military experience and that is what moved me to finally watch THE UNIT from the first time I watched an entire episode which was only this week. SPARTAN was excellent - the dialogue, the characters. I love it because that is how these special forces operatives work. Intensity. A take no prisoners attitude by a bunch of real bad asses.
After finally watching full episodes earlier this week, I realize that I really should have been watching this show and miss it already. THE UNIT is so similar to Mamet's SPARTAN that I was literally ready for another mission myself. It made me feel proud to have served in the Armed Forces to see what we and my band of brothers were doing in serving our country. I couldn't believe that it was on prime time TV. I never would have imagined the NSA or the Pentagon would allow such a show to be on, especially with Al-Queda running able to see just how U.S. anti-terrorist operatives perform.
Now back to the black thing. I hate the fact that black men in leading roles in dramas/action series are absent. Why are black minstrels "cooning" (as Richard Pryor's comedy writer and comedian Paul Mooney called) so dominant on television? And yes, seeing another black man in a dress (yes, I am calling you out Tyler Perry) is not the type of black male character role model that I want to see in movies or television either.
Want to know who my role model was as a youth? BRUCE LEE and JIM KELLY. Never the character Mr. Brown from MEET THE BROWNS or any of those other minstrels. The only black positive role model on TV I even gave time to was Bernie Mac - I love the fact that there was no insulting laugh track on his series - because he portrayed himself from his comedian persona - see THE KINGS OF COMEDY. He kept it real.
It angers me that we finally have a cool, calm and mature black strong male (and female with Regina Taylor) character on TV so that I can show future generation of how to handle stress under pressure only to have them taken off television. I couldn't believe that it lasted 4 seasons. I have seen and heard series come and go and this one was excellent with such realism (except the Vice President being killed, but then again there was John Grishman's novel THE PELICAN BRIEF with Supreme Court Justices being killed).
I hope one day that a cable or satellite channel will be devoted to taking excellent series that are canceled on network TV and continuing them because this one should be the first. Yes, this was a violent show, but its violence was related to real world events like 9/11 and that is understandable. I loved the first and 2nd Bourne movies, but the third one was a little unrealistic (2 auto accidents in one day?????). Yes, some of what happened was a little unrealistic like a handcuffed Sam (Wes Chatham - glad to see he got work after his Showtime BARBERSHOP got cancelled) beating up two cops and leaving the scene but again, they can be forgiven. But again, like BARBERSHOP, why couldn't there be an ending?
Will there ever be a black man as a lead in a drama series instead of stupid comedic sitcoms? What is there to laugh about these days in the age of global warming, terrorism, hydrofracking, genetic engineering of our foods, economic collapse, high unemployment - add me to that list, which is the only reason I had time to view THE UNIT in the first place, and the coming apocalypse?
I have programmed my DVR to record every episode of this great series and what I watch, I burn to DVD with my DVD recorder. I loved the Sopranos because writers were able to show the human side of real gangsters, some of who I know in real life, along with contemporary issues of the day. The same I could see in THE UNIT and I have only watched 4 episodes total. Black people really needed a counterpoint to the series THE WIRE and THE UNIT was it. When I visit brothers watching THE WIRE, I always turned them on to THE UNIT to show real teamwork where members were violent for A CAUSE and not killing rival gang members or each other.
So it doesn't surprise me that, again, another great series was taken off the air - it was all part of the dumbing down of America for stupid (non) reality TV.
Jonas Blane, you are my friend and I would fight with you on the front lines anywhere. I know you Jonas. You were my Drill Sergeant during my Army days and my first officer when I was in the Marine Corp. I salute you, my fallen comrade in arms - a casualty of modern contemporary PSY-OPS called cultural illiteracy that has taken over our public schools and the corporatization of them. I will now watch your missions as training exercises and share with my children to show them that we as a people are great in many ways that are rarely seen. I miss your leadership Jonas and I was never a member of your immediate UNIT but heard your reputation to get the job done with maximum efficiency and minimal collateral damage.
May THE UNIT be reassembled - much better than any MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movie, and continue it operations because we need to see more black men in control leading the way for others, motivating brothers who wear sagging pants (wonder what MLK would say) to ship up or shape out and get with a team that will take them to the promised land called peace, prosperity, compassion and victory over mediocrity.