January 20, 2015 by Devin
I have been through a lot of show cancellations in my time. I remember watching Firefly and went through my phase where I could not stop saying, “They have to make more!” I bemoaned the rushed ending of Pushing Daisies due to the writer’s strike, one of the greatest tragedies of that event. I even was rooting for and watching Kings while it aired, a show that was incredibly unique and captivating but not popular enough to even garner a cult following after its short season.
But by far, the show I am so disappointed was canceled before its time is Enlisted. This show was canceled last spring, and hearing everyone rave and talk about American Sniper makes the sting of its end hurt even more.
Now, while movies like American Sniper like to depict soldiers as people who shoot bad guys (aka snipers), Enlisted went out of its way to combat the notion that that is all soldiers do.
For those sadly many who did not watch Enlisted, the show depicted the goings on at a Rear-D base in Florida. Pete, the main character, has been sent there from the front lines in Afghanistan after punching a superior officer. There he ends up with his two brothers, Derrick and Randy.
This base in Florida is not on the front lines. They are not the people who fight bad guys head on. The only combat scenes in this show involve paint guns, golf carts, and brown noise guns. Pete likes to view himself as a bit of a super soldier, but Derrick and Randy are completely different, the former being a cynical middle child and the latter being the naïve and lovable teddy bear.
What Enlisted does is show how each of the Army has need of all of these types of people. They do not kill people, but the work this base does in Florida is just as important as the work people do on the front lines. They have to support the families left behind, the veterans still around, and each other.
One of my favorite episodes of the show has Derrick trying to make Randy a bit more of a hard ass so he can pass his shooting certification (Randy keeps empathizing with the target). After he does so through unconventional means, Randy passes the certification but leaves Derrick wondering if this is really the best place for Randy. When he asks Command Sergeant Major Donald Cody this (played with wonderful gusto by Keith David), Cody leads Derrick to the army wives support group Randy helps with. There Randy is empathizing and caring for these people who really need it, and Cody says, “No, the Army needs more people like Randy.”
That is such great television. This show humanized soldiers in a way that I have never seen done before. Most depictions of soldiers make them look like super soldiers, but here the super soldier mentality is mocked and the emotional struggles are taken seriously.
Even though it did not get big numbers, I think it also really connected with audiences who did see it. Over at Badass Digest, they had a series of reviews for the show from the perspective of an active duty member, and if you check out the reviews over at Amazon (where you can also buy it), you will see people respect the way it deals with military life and how it approaches the military from an authentic but little-seen perspective.
And sadly, it is a perspective that will be little-seen for the foreseeable future.
1. Disclaimer: I have not actually seen American Sniper yet. I have no real desire to except (that I want to talk about it). My impressions of it are based on what I have heard from people who did see it, both those who liked it and did not like it.
2. Though it really is an ensemble cast.
3. Similarly to the actual “American Sniper,” though less of an a-hole.
4. I do not want to spoil what he does here, but suffice to say it involves Toy Story 3 and is my favorite joke of the show.