I think that Over There is an American TV first. They’re doing a fiction show about an American war while that war is still going on. And as much as we might believe that M*A*S*H was talking about the then-current Viet Nam conflict, it was set in the Korean war (although a version of the Korean war that lasted three times longer than the real one did. No wonder Hawkeye always felt so trapped.)
Any war is a serious topic, and a current and particularly problematic war (not that war isn’t inherently a problem) is a minefield, emotionally. And the show is not designed to make us feel any more comfortable. While the first episode made the conflict between the US and the insurgent forces stark and made no real attempt to question the conflict on that basis, it did show American soldiers at times being badly used by the American defense system. Butmore to the point, the vast majority of it was a battle scene, with American soldiers in the trenches faced with an insurgent stronghold. Every soldier has a nickname and a back story.,.. and they may not all have a forward story. They’re not all going to make it out of Iraq whole.
The series, which airs on FX, comes from Stephen Bochco, who brought a sense of verisimilitude to the cop showwith Hill Street Blues. If anything, this new series feels a bit more like his later series NYPD Blue; tough and dark and not afraid of brief periods of people talking cleverly to keep the viewer alert. Production value is high, and they’re putting style into it. The extended battle period inclueds night scenes shot in green as if through a nightscope, and daytime shots with the heavy orange tinge of a sandstorm.
This show is not for the squeamish,and not for the adamant or the radical on either side of the Iraq war quetion. It is, however, well put together, at least the pilot (I do already have the second episode on the hard disk machine, but have not yet had a chance to watch it, as my wife is among the squeamish.) I do hope its need for drama won’t keep it always on the battlefield, rather than dealing with some of the more mundane activities and even pleasant encounters that are indeed part of being a soldier in this conflict. Worth checking out, if you can.