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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Tried to watch the pilot of Tour of Duty. The 1987 haircuts were hard to watch, and the landscape looked an awful lot like Mexico. (Any remember eucalyptus trees in Vietnam?) The cliche dialog ("He was a good man" "They're all good men") was painful. The cliche characters sucked -- the new lieutenant of course has to be an idiot who doesn't listen to his sergeant. The utter lack of realism troubled me -- when we skipped ahead of ep. 3, you saw a Vietnamese guy in a hamlet pull out a rifle to shoot back at the NVA who were ambushing the soldiers and not a single American soldier shot his head off!. A Vietnamese civilian with a rifle, in those days, was VC.

Anyone who runs is V.C. Anyone who stands still is well-disciplined V.C.
Door Gunner, Full Metal Jacket

What made the show bad was that there did not seem to be any episode plots. The pilot had only the vaguest of plots: the sergeant recruits some rookies to go chase some NVA in the jungle, hoping to bring back a prisoner, i.e. something you did pretty much every day in the infantry. Nothing special.

What made the show unwatchable is that it showed us nothing we didn't already know. If you're going to take us all the way back to Vietnam in 1967, assume we've seen Apocalypse Now and Platoon and Full Metal Jacket. Assume we've also seen (forgive me if some of these date after 1987) The Big Red One and The Longest Day and A Bridge Too Far and The Green Berets.

If you can't show us anything we haven't seen in those movies, why should we watch your damn TV show? China Beach showed us stories we hadn't seen before. Needless to say, MASH showed us stories and characters we hadn't met before. Tour of Duty, not so much.

TV and the movies exist to show us the real world in ways we haven't seen it before, either because we haven't been where the story is taking place, or because we enter the mind of someone who's seeing a world we know, but with a different perspective; or to show us a world we've never seen before but which is emotionally grounded in our own lives.

Fantasy's fine. Spectacle's fine. No one is watching The OC for real life. But you can't show us what pretends to be the real world but isn't; and you can't show us a fictional world we've seen all too many times before.

Stories can be old, but they have to be new at the same time.

Well, I'm popping this disk back in the mailer...

PS A reader writes to ask where I found ToD. Well, on DVD, natch. At But why on Earth did they re-release it??? I mean, Miami Vice, sure, but...



I can COMPLETELY believe that watching the pilot of ToD was AWFUL for you, but man, you GOTTA divulge where in the hell you pulled this copy from! Seriously, where did you get it??? I don't know what tripped the trigger, but recently, that show came to mind, and I thought, " never see it in syndication on the history channel!" Hilarious....anyhow, I was only 12 when it aired, but I thought it was awesome at the time and think it'd be funny to have the same realization that you did!

By Blogger Eric Nentrup, at 12:20 AM  

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