Steven Bochco has slam dunked his way into yet another Emmy-worthy show with FX’s new war drama “Over There.” Not unlike “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blue,” Bochco brings yet another thought-provoking and novel idea to the small screen to prove once and for all that mind-numbing “reality” TV and reruns have not yet accomplished their grand scheme at total summer domination.
“Over There” is the collaborative effort of Bochco and Chris Gerolmo. Set in present-day Iraq, the show takes a refreshingly honest look at the ongoing conflict through the eyes of one Army unit on its first military tour.
Although the idea itself is not new (following a group of young soldiers as they attempt to survive the horrors of war), it might well be the first time anyone has seen fit to do so during a war that’s still going on. As a result, FX continues to uphold its growing reputation for intense and provocative shows; “Over There” joins a bold cast alongside “Nip/Tuck,” “Rescue Me” and even “The Shield.”
Surprisingly apolitical, Bochco and Gerolmo choose to concentrate on the characters rather than the issues of war, giving us the chance to empathize with the troops who really are over there.
The show follows an eclectic group of soldiers, all from markedly different backgrounds. The cast is headed by Erik Palladino (“ER”) as Sgt. Chris Silas, aka Sgt. Scream due to his penchant for incessantly shouting orders at his troops. There’s also Josh Henderson as Bo Rider, a bright-eyed high school quarterback in love with the army; Luke MacFarlane as Frank Dumphy, an Ivy League-grad nicknamed Dim because he was stupid enough to land in the Army; and Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones as Smoke, a soldier who spends his duty cozying up with Ol’ Lady Mary Jane. Then there’s Nikki Aycox as “Mrs. B” Brenda Mitchell, an enigmatic 18 year old with a chilly attitude, and Lizette Carrion in the role of Esmerelda Del Rio aka “Doublewide,” a tough-as-nails new mother who proves women have just as much power on the battlefield as men.
Although much of “Over There” follows front-line combat, there are small snippets that show those who are left behind and must deal with the aftermath and heartbreak at the absence of loved ones. It’s the inclusion of their stories that makes the show so relevant for those of us watching from the home front.
Bochco and Gerolmo never retreat from the harsh realities of war. Gunfire and explosions are everywhere, but so too is the pain of realization in the soldiers as they look upon the bodies of those they have slain. One can watch the naïveté slip away from their faces as they become conscious of the fact that these are human lives that were taken by their own hands.
No preaching. No politicizing. No debate about right or wrong. “Over There” is single-minded and powerful, a raw singular look at war through the eyes of several young soldiers who are in for the fight of their lives.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars