Stephen Bochco's new series Over There, a gritty hyper-realistic series about American Soldiers in Iraq, premiered this week on the FX Network.
Premering with an episode that was full of both sex and violence, Over There attempts to bring the same realism to soldiers under fire that Bochco's previous hit shows Hill Street Blues, LA Law and NYPD Blue brought to Police and Attorneys.
Introducing a somewhat cliched squad of characters featuring the loudmouth Sargent "Scream", clueless Lieutenant "Mad Cow", two different "angry black men" - one mad at the world and full of excuses "Smoke", and another an elightened would-be gospel singer only angry at himself "Angel", as well as Bo - an upbeat go-getter with a partial football scholarship just needing some additional support from the GI Bill to attend Texas A&M who get hit with a roadside bomb and loses part of his leg, and "Dim" - a Cornell dropout with major marriage troubles.<> Bochco has already stated that doesn't intend for the show to slant any particular way politically and that appears evident from the first episode - only in the sense that both rah-rah gingoism as well as self-doubt and anti-american sentiment will be portrayed without either being shown as more "correct" than the other. The soldiers themselves gripe, but they don't neccesarily look at the issues in a context much larger than surviving the next day, or the next few hours. On the other hand one captured insurgent leader yells as he's being hauled away "Are you taking me to Abu Ghraib? Should I take my clothes off now?" Despite Bochco's denials Politics may indeed become a center-peice of the show starting next week as a the injured Bo is replaced in the unit by an Arab-American soldier.
The show has great promise and potential. For one thing, it's the first program - News, Reality or Fiction - to actually attempt to accurately portray what has been going on during the two years of war we've had with Afghanistan and Iraq. The visuals are quite graphic as the upper body of one insurgent is shown literally expoding into peices while his legs continue to walk forward. Later, when the battle is over the brand new fresh-off-the-plane recruits look glumly over their own handiwork -- displaying a mixture of remorse, resolve and in one case a bloody-minded sports score mentallity. " Yeah, I capped this one right here...and that one too"
Even more interesting than the show itself, will be the reaction of the right-wing. With Rick Santorum on a book tour talking about how the society has grown more coarsened, and the potential for the censorship which has already gripped broadcast TV as well as radio threatening to including cable and satellite as well (putting the breaks on shows such as The Sopranos, Sex in the City, Deadwood, FX's The Shield and Rescure Me)-- this just might be both our first and last chance to see exactly what our sons and daughters are going through - over there.