The Unit

In this post-9/11 world, there have been a number of series that focus on this being a post-9/11 world… and they ahve generally not fared well. Folks don’t seem to want to see “war on terror” fiction, whether it’s set in the U.S. or overseas. But we’re getting another one in The Unit. It’s got some cast, some provenance, and it has something it wants to talk about – the cost it has on those staging the fight.

It’s hard to tell whether it will add up to much. In the first episode, they fight off a coordinated terrorist attack in the US, the new team member’s wife gets plugged uncomfortably into the forcibly limited life of the group’s family, and stress shows on the unit leader. So we have situations… but if they’re going to go anywhere, they’ll have to decide which direction to build, and that’s really the question here. If they have a lot of invasions of the U.S., it will seem like a fear-generation show. If it’s just about the psychological toll it takes, it will be purely depressing (not a surprise, with David Mamet as the writer/creator) without necessarily seeming realistic.

And if it wants us to love it, well, it’s got a problem. I can’t say that I like any of the characters. At its base, the “Unit” of the title is a lets-break-the-law-to-do-what-needs-to-be-done creation (which is the sort of thing that sounds good only when you’re manufacturing problems for which this is the solution without repercussion.) This applies with how they treat the bad guys, how they treat other branches of good guys, how they treat even the unit members and their families.

Now, Mamet is the heavyweight name here, but he doesn’t pull that much weight with me. Perhaps its because my first experience with his work (as opposed to his rep) was when he was brought in as a big-name guest writer for an episode of Hill Street Blues… and turned out an episode that looked like he had taken some existing script and plastered the Hill Street character names on it, without regard for their actual character. I’ve seen a number of his movies, and there is definitely some good dialog work, but generally I’ve not cared much for the underlying structure and theme. Dark does not inherently mean deep for me. The acting name Dennis Haysbert as the field head of the unit was more of a draw for me.

Gravitas can be a limitation; it’s hard to picture Morgan Freeman filling any role where he doesn’t have the wisdom that comes from hard experience. Haysbert (who you might know from his work as the President on 24 or in the film Far From Heaven) doesn’t escape it in The Unit, the new antiterrorism task force series, but they’re using it as a layer and revealing other things below it.

Normally, I would follow this for a couple more episodes to see if it goes anywhere worthwhile. However, it’s up against Scrubs and House and Sons and Daughters… oh, okay, the last two are actually one show, but you see what I’m saying. I can’t just casually record this show and watch episodes when I feel like it.

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Published in: on March 9, 2006 at 10:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

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