Enlisted is something of a throwback comedy that would have fit rather well in a lineup from the mid-80s. That shouldn’t be surprising considering recent trends, but this one also tries to blend elements of more recent, irreverent comedies, and while it has some solid moments, the combination makes it hard to predict how well it will be received.
Geoff Stults, fresh out of two sit-coms that should have been around longer, plays Pete Hill, a soldier who had a stellar career ahead of him, until he punched a superior. He now finds himself in Florida leading a Rear Detachment unit. Rear D is, according to the show, where those who can’t cut it as real soldiers end up, and where Pete’s two brothers spend their time in the military. Of course, Enlisted isn’t going to leave it at that, and will ultimately play up the importance of Rear D, but at the same time, it needs them to be the misfit soldiers so that the particular brand of hilarity we’re after can ensue.
In keeping with the classic norms of comedy, Pete’s two brothers are polar opposites in terms of their general perspective. Derrick (Chris Lowell) is smart, but is dismissive of the military itself to a degree, and certainly of Rear D, to the extent you find yourself demanding that the show convince you that the character would really be there. Think Bill Murray in Stripes, but with a bit less class clown, and with an effort to portray some degree of what a person might actually be able to get away with (but not really). Come to think of it, make that Harold Ramis in Stripes.
Randy (Parker Young), on the other hand, is all-in when it comes to the military, and displaying enthusiasm in general, but isn’t all that bright. He does have a special gift for performing many of the duties that are associated with Rear D though, including overseeing the general welfare of the families on the base, who have husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers abroad.
Rounding out the main cast, we have Command Sergeant Major Donald Cody (Keith David) and Staff Sergeant Jill Perez (Angelique Cabral). Fort McGee is run by Donald Cody, who is trying to balance his responsibilities, in a more traditionally military sense, with his apparent need to babysit most of those under his command. This isn’t helped by Pete’s arrival, who shows up with a very negative attitude about being wasted. Staff Sergeant Perez is in charge of another platoon on the base, one comprised of oddly non-reject caliber soldiers, and Pete and Jill immediately find themselves at odds, largely because she takes herself very seriously.
It’s a character comedy, along the lines of Three’s Company meets The Office and gets drafted, and the jokes and laughs aren’t particularly important for any individual segment. The real test is whether or not you invest in the people on display, and how fast you do it. If the show were adjusted slightly, I’d say it was an easy win, and one that was probably a sure bet for at least pulling in audiences for a few seasons. The elements are all there, though Perez and Randy might not become likable quickly enough, but I don’t think the mix is right for this one to get to its full potential. That said, things start to gel better a few episodes in, with hints that after about ten we might manage to get to the show you’ll wish you were watching all along.
Potential inability to live up to its potential aside, this may finally be the vehicle Stults has been waiting for, because his charisma is highlighted well, and may be enough to get you to give this one a chance long enough for it to stabilize beyond its establishment phase. Even so, the show is trying to be so “safe” and “family-friendly,” that I’m not sure the effort meshes well with the subject. I think it works, and it gets better over the first few episodes, I just don’t know if anyone else will connect with the complex meshing of ideas that is a G-rated cut of Stripes.
ENLISTED is an irreverent and heartfelt single-camera comedy about three brothers on a small Florida Army post and the group of misfits who surround them. Charming, funny and a natural-born leader, Staff Sergeant PETE HILL (Geoff Stults, “Ben and Kate,” “The Finder”) was on a path for a huge military career until one mistake overseas got him booted stateside to Fort McGee, the post in Florida where his two younger brothers are stationed. Now, as their platoon sergeant, Pete must serve both as big brother and military boss. Corporal DERRICK HILL (Chris Lowell, “Private Practice,” “Veronica Mars”) is the middle brother – smart and sarcastic, he likes to stir up trouble and doesn’t really care about being a Soldier. Private RANDY HILL (Parker Young, “Suburgatory”), on the other hand, loves it. He’s the hyper-enthusiastic, hyper-goofy – just plain hyper – youngest brother who wants to be the gung-ho “G.I. Joe” military ideal.
The Hill brothers all serve in the Rear Detachment (Rear D) unit, comprised of the Soldiers left behind when everyone else is deployed, who mow lawns on post, sort mail, wash tanks and find lost dogs. But the Rear D’s main job is taking care of deployed Soldiers’ families. Whatever they need, the Rear D Soldiers do. It’s a job that shifts each moment from the thrilling to the mundane to the emotional and back again.
Fort McGee Rear D is run by Command Sergeant Major DONALD CODY (Emmy Award winner Keith David, “Cloud Atlas,” “The Cape”), a firm but fair man who served with the brothers’ late father. Sergeant Major Cody promised to look out for them, so he brought all the brothers to the post to fulfill that promise. Cody has seen it all and lost a foot to prove it – which no one can forget, since he never misses an opportunity to bring it up. Also under Cody’s command is the confident, funny, tough and beautiful Staff Sergeant JILL PEREZ (Angelique Cabral, “Friends with Benefits”), who is the same rank as Pete and leads another Rear D platoon on post, all the while challenging Pete’s decisions at every turn.
A military-set family comedy, ENLISTED centers on three brothers who, when the best of the best are sent overseas, stay behind to try to keep the post in order. Between clean-up duty at a parade, human-grease-bowling and assorted soldierly pranks, they will inadvertently discover the key to strengthening their long-lost childhood bonds.