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The Unit (Part 1?)

Because I’m a little peeved today, and don’t really feel like writing about the latest socialist-capital-destroying-debacle that Obama is doubtlessly about to foist on us, and because Writer X brought it up in a comment and I should give the people what they want, and mostly because it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want, I’m going to talk a little bit about The Unit.

(Much, much) More after the jump.

For those among us who are unware, The Unit is a David Mamet created show that has been airing on CBS for four seasons now. It details the missions of a Delta Force-clone team of elite U.S. soliders, headed by Dennis Haysbert’s (aka President Palmer, Pedro Cerrano, Allstate pitchman) Sgt. Jonas “Snake Doctor” Blaine.

His supporting cast includes Scott Foley (who apparently gained fame with some show about a woman who cut her hair or something, but that I have never, and would never watch) as Sgt. Bob “Cool Breeze” Brown, the newest member of the unit (at least at the beginning of the show). Also featured is Robert Patrick (the T-1000, but not nearly as svelte and liquid-metally) as the unit commanding officer Colonel Tom “I don’t get an awesome call-sign” Ryan.

The other unit members (currently) are played by Max Martini (maybe a C-level HITG! – he had a nice-sized part in Saving Private Ryan as one of the defenders of the bridge at the end, and was featured prominently in the not-horrible recent WWII POW rescue pic that no one saw, The Greatest Raid). He gets the not-quite-as-awesome handle “Dirt Diver.” That must kinda suck, when they’re handing out nicknames, people are getting stuff like “Cool Breeze” and “Snake Doc” and you get stuck with “Dirt Diver.” Maybe that’s why his character, Mack, is an angry person. I would be.

Granted, the fourth member’s call sign, “Betty Blue,” isn’t that much better, but at least it doesn’t prompt an immediate mental image of somebody frantically ducking for cover in the mud. The fourth unit member is Sgt. Charles “Carlito” Grey, played by Michael Irby. Somehow, the roomies and I got through about two and a half seasons before we could come up with his character’s real name.

There is a newly acquired 5th Beatle, Red Cap, but the less said about the female characters on this show the better. All-in-all, the episodes are generally very good as long as they’re dealing with the unit members and their missions. As far as I can tell (not that that’s saying much) the military aspects of the show are portrayed realistically, and the U.S. military in general is potrayed in a very positive light. The characters have their flaws, sure (especially Mack) but when they’re on the job they’re efficient, professional and loyal.

Unfortunately, apparently Mamet and the other folks who run the show made the decision to devote about half of most episodes to the wives and families of the unit members. Now, I understand that to ignore this part of the life of a member of the military is to ignore much of what they’re fighting to protect. But for my money, the parts of the show dealing with the wives and families are simply awful. It feels like the producers tried to combine an intelligent, exciting action show with a bad show off of Lifetime. And actually, a year or two after The Unit began, Lifetime came up with what appears to be a clone of the family parts of The Unit, creatively titled Army Wives.

But I cannot emphasize enough how bad the subplots involving the wives are. The women on the show (with the exception of Jonas’ wife Molly, who’s reasonably compentent) seem to make incredibly bad decisions on a regular basis, endangering themselves and their husbands (and by extension, the country). It’s gotten to the point where any time that Bob’s wife “Kim” (Audrey Marie Anderson) gets herself in any sort of danger (which is fairly often, because she’s dumb) we actively root for her to get killed off the show. We’re not happy about it, but hey, she’s a character on a television show. Mack’s on-again off-again wife Tiffy is nearly as bad, certainly in terms of the lousy decisions. Neither of them bring anything to the show beyond unnecessary bad drama (does a show involving top secret, incredibly daring military raids need extra drama?), and their interludes bring the action to a dead stop every time. As mentioned, Jonas’ wife Molly isn’t quite as appallingly slow as the other two, but the amount of time spent on their hijinks is wasted time that could be better spent watching their husbands, I dunno, kill the hell out of terrorists or something.

Now, if you’ve made it this far in my little review here, you’re probably thinking that it can’t get much worse in terms of the female characters on this show. You’d be wrong. Dead wrong.

For any fans of David Mamet out there (of which I count myself) you’re brutally aware of the so-called “acting” of his wife, Rebecca Pidgeon. Now, I think David Mamet is a genius. But the decision to prominently feature his wife in so many of his projects has to be one of the worst choices ever made in film or television casting. This is bad that’s on par with Sofia Coppola in Godfather III, or Nicolas Cage in pretty much anything (side note – how has the SAG not sued the pants off of Francis Ford Coppola for his numerous nepotistic crimes against film? The man has ruined more potentially good movies through his progeny than anyone I can think of. Granted, Cage isn’t technically his progeny, but he certainly wouldn’t have a career without dear ol’ Uncle Frank.) But anyway – Pidgeon is awful. As stilted as line deliveries of Mamet’s dialogue tend to be, she takes the cake. If everyone else is on little toy stilts, she’s striding around on the giant circus-size jobs. And her character, the once- and maybe future-wife of Colonel Ryan, is a mess. She’s a pretty horrible person who basically seems to exist to ruin lives (granted, she’s a government bureaucrat, so maybe that’s intentional), but she’ll show up for an episode, make everyone miserable and then leave. She’s like Barbara Hershey in Hoosiers, except she’s also a little evil.

So I guess my point is – the show is awesome, and a sorely needed action-packed tribute to our worthy soldiers, and you should give it a shot. But if would be so so so much better if they would just get rid of the inane family subplots. Please. David? Please. Just have each mission end, show the boys coming home to a relieved hug from the wife and the kids, and end it there.

Oh. And bring back the original opening theme!!!

There’s a lot more I could add here, but I should probably do some actual work today. Maybe later.

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03/04/2009 - Posted by | The Unit, TV

1 Comment »

  1. I LOVED this post! I’m seriously starting to think we’re related because I couldn’t agree with you more about THE UNIT. I absolutely hate when the show is wasted on the dim-witted wives. They are so boring. And stupid. I’d rather see more about their missions. The actions of all the guys in the unit are always so refreshingly unapologetic. Although what’s up with the latest addition? The young guy? He’s already turned stalker/psycho. I didn’t see that coming.

    Comment by WriterX | 04/23/2009 | Reply


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