In real life and screen life, serving your country is honorable. So how do you make a situation comedy about life in the military without letting the humor undermine the admiration most of us hold for those who serve? You write “Enlisted,” a charming look at life in the Army, where honor means finding worth in the job you do, even when it’s not on the battlefield.
Pete (Geoff Stults), Derrick (Chris Lowell) and Randy Hill (Parker Young) are brothers assigned to the Rear Detachment Unit (Rear D), a small post in Florida where soldiers who are not deployed are responsible for the mundane tasks of running a base. They mow lawns, find missing dogs and wash tanks, but they also take care of the families of those who are overseas. For Pete, a serious soldier with a promising career, the assignment is punishment for a mistake he makes while serving in Afghanistan. He is made platoon sergeant to a group of misfit soldiers who include his two younger brothers. Middle brother Derrick has little interest in being in the military, while youngest brother Randy loves everything about it. Derrick is sarcastic. Randy is sensitive. Pete just wants to find a way back to “real” service.
What Pete quickly learns is that the work the soldiers of Rear D perform for the families gives them as much dignity as what he experienced while deployed. The show defines honor through military service in a new way, but it’s also an homage to finding honor in whatever job you perform, no matter how little you may think it means.
Mostly though, “Enlisted” is about three brothers who take care of each other in sweet and funny ways. Derrick is a guy with little ambition who seemingly chose the Army because his father was a soldier and he didn’t have a better idea but his general disinterest doesn’t prevent him from caring about his brothers, particularly Randy, whose ultra-sensitive side gives the show much of its humor. In one episode, Derrick and Pete discover Randy crying over soldier reunion videos. (He calls them “emotional coffee” because they get you going.) He fails a shooting test because he personalizes the “man” on the target and he knows the plot of “Toy Story” by heart but can’t recite it without crying at the end. Young is a stand out in a talented cast who all have solid comedic timing.
The Rear D soldiers, a family of lovable losers, have great one-liners that are delivered seamlessly in episodes that expertly balance the absurd with genuine moments. As their leader, Geoff Stults uses the natural charm that was so wasted on his last series “The Finder” to great effect both as a soldier who is redefining his notion of a hero and as a man who is re-discovering his childhood bond with his brothers.
Page 2 of 2 - “Enlisted” is on Fridays at 9 p.m. EST on Fox.
Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.