From “MASH” to “Hogan’s Heroes,” military comedy on TV has run the gamut from serious to silly, and FOX’s fall offering “Enlisted” attempts to walk a fine line between both.
“It’s really, really important to me and to Mike [Royce] and to the entire cast to make sure the show is never appearing mocking or disrespectful,” co-creator Kevin Biegel (“Cougar Town”) said during a panel discussion at TCA’s summer press tour. “It’s not what this show is.”
Instead Biegel said he hopes to find a middle ground between the two dominant portrayals of soldiers in pop culture as “either a superhero ‘Call of Duty’ soldier with no personality, or [someone with] PTSD who can’t even function.”
“Those people exist but there’s also people in the middle,” Biegel added. “To say all [soldiers] have to fit into these two camps didn’t seem fair to the experiences of the people I know and love.”
“Enlisted” is a personal show for Biegel, who based the story of three military brothers (played by Geoff Stults, Chris Lowell and Parker Young) stationed at a domestic Army base partly on his own family life.
“After [“Cougar Town”] I really wanted to do something that was intensely personal,” Biegel revealed. “My relationship with my two brothers is the greatest relationship I’ve had in my life. I wanted to set a show in a world that is very intensely about brotherhood.”
As for how much the show gets right about military life, Biegel insists the show aims to be as realistic as possible within the context of a network comedy. “We weren’t on a base,” Stults allowed. “[But] we had military advisers [on set] to make sure we didn’t screw up.
“Usually when you see something military it’s very serious,” co-star Keith David (who also appeared in the Oscar-winning war film “Platoon”) said. “But the guys do have a laugh. We could talk about how real those scenes in ‘Apocalypse Now’ are with the guys surfing, but they do have fun.”
But that doesn’t mean the show is only looking for laughs. “There’s gonna be heavier things that the show deals with because it has to,” Biegel explained. “The show is gonna go there. I cut my teeth at ‘Scrubs,’ that show had silly things but then heartfelt emotional things. That’s where this show is gonna go.”