Tuesday, August 02, 2005

TV War

Over There.

SOLDIERS. There's a new TV show on the FX Channel. It's called Over There and it purports to show us what it's really like for our service men and women in Iraq. The producer is Steven Bochco, father of Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue, among other television projects. Given the famous Hollywood antipathy to the Iraq War and to the Bush administration's policies in general, we might be excused for wondering just how Bochco would choose to tilt our perspective on the military. Like many, I watched the pilot episode and -- not having been in Iraq -- experienced a vague sense that we were being invited to see the conflict as an urban Vietnam and the soldiers fighting it as somewhat helpless victims of their own leadership.

I had expected to come away with a sour taste in my mouth and I did. That's not much of a basis for doing a review. So, I was glad to see that a milblogger had analyzed the show from a professional viewpoint at some depth. He cited at least one plus, the uniforms, "which, right down to the black socks used to cover goggles, were spot on. "

He didn't like much else, though:

Unfortunately, the costume designer is the only person who seems to have actually studied the war, pictures of the war or video of the war.

As someone who has been over there it was easy to see that if Steven Bochco hired a military consultant, he didn't pay attention to him or, if they did listen to him, that consultant should be fired.

In Bochco's depiction of the war, the tactics are wrong, the dialogue is wrong, the set-ups are wrong and the scenarios are ridiculous.

The reason it's a valuable review to read in full is that he is extremely specific about the differences between the show and reality. He assesses the scenario, the characterizations of soldiers and officers, and then systematically enumerates the errors in tactics. I'll offer one representative excerpt:

Despite the complete unreality of not obliterating the building, in the fake war on FX, there is only one fire team of grunts and two female Motor Transport soldiers as the base of fire to hold the cordon around the mosque.

The standoff appears to last almost 36 hours, complete with negotiations with the terrorists inside the mosque. If something dragged on that long, the two female Motor Transport soldiers would be relieved and resume their normal duties with their logistics unit, and a whole company of grunts would be called in to form an 'L' cordon around the building where every perimeter side could be covered with direct fire.

The L cordon would consist of flat foot grunts, Humvees with heavy guns and probably some armor.

In a high profile situation, as depicted in 'Over There,' Apache gun ships would be on station and jets on station as well.

In the fake war on FX, a high-tech communications unit is brought in to transmit the negotiations. In the real war, this would result in a secure coil/compound being set up. With the addition of another Platoon sized element and possibly an outer cordon.

In the real war, one, five-man fire team would not be the only grunts on the scene. A fire team may be in an area off on their own for a while, but once the bullets started flying, every swinging soldier in the area would be converging on the action.(1)

In the FX war, the soldiers are given orders to advance towards the building. So, in keeping with the 'reality' of this 'gripping' drama, they all stand up on-line and walk towards the building. Wrong.

A fire team advancing over open terrain towards a building they took fire from would be in 10 yards sprints, one team member at a time.

And so on. Over There is supposed to help educate us about the real war. Maybe it can help do that if we take the opportunity to study critiques like this one in depth.

I have nothing more to say, except that I urge you all to read the whole entry at Faces From the Front, and pass it on to everyone who expresses any interest whatsoever in Over There. It's the least we can do.

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