Good TV Viewing: Over There

Over There, from Steven Bochco, the creator of Hill St. Blues and NYPD Blue, treads a pretty unenviable line. It has, first and foremost, to be entertaining. Then, it has to tread some very dangerous political ground: get it too gung-ho and Michael Moore will be all over them like a bag of McDonald’s fries; too harsh and country singers will ask him why he hates America. And of course, after all of this it has to try to be accurate enough not to garner too many criticisms from the troops.

Ooops.

The funny thing is, I still find it entertaining. It may be ham-fisted at times, but the dialog is good, and it’s structured well enough that you don’t find the inevitable stuck-up-officer or lieutenant versus the sargeant, etc., etc., that disconcerting. If you’ve never been in the military, like me, the inaccuracies won’t bother you so much.

The verisimilitude comes from the confusion of fighting in an area where you don’t speak the language and there’s no opposing army. It also does a good job of showing the soldiers just trying to do their job and come home alive. It also shows the strain it puts on families left behind.

In the end, I doubt it will survive. It will be tough to tread this line too long without falling down on one side or the other. In each of the cases where civilians are killed, it turned out insurgents were behind it for their own dark purposes. Given the number of young suicide bombers in the Middle East, it’s not terribly hard to believe, but it avoids the harder question of those who are simply trying to live who are caught in the crossfire.

But until then, it’s good to remind yourself that yes, there’s a war on over there, and yes, it’s tearing apart the families of those we’ve asked to go, and yes, they’re being killed or torn apart themselves, while we worry about paying too much for gasoline…that happens to come from that part of the world.

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