It's almost too ironic that Fox's new comedy Enlisted (you know, the one you've seen roughly 79,282,084 commercials for) is about being outstanding in your field and getting stuck in a position that's beneath you. Because that's exactly what Fox has done to this very funny and heartwarming series by sticking it in the dead zone time slot that is 9:30 PM on a Friday. (It's also ironic that the title Enlisted looks a whole lot like the title Enlightened, another show that never got a fair shake.)
Of course, I could preemptively be calling Enlisted DOA. For all I know word could spread that this is a war show that never feels preachy or insensitive to the severity of war; a fast-paced comedy that never feels cloying; and a sentimental look at brotherhood -- familial or otherwise -- that never gets too patronizingly sweet. The pilot of Enlisted found the right balance of telling the story of cocky ex-super soldier Pete Hill (Geoff Stults) who finds himself deployed from Afghanistan after clobbering his commanding officer and is assigned to work at the Rear Detachment unit of Fort McGee in Florida alongside his brothers -- the unfazed smart guy Derrick (Chris Lowell) and the dopey, but adorable Randy (Parker Young) and a band of misfit not-so-super soldiers.
Pete reluctantly finds himself as the platoon sergeant for a group of unfit soldiers (sometimes quite literally) doing work he thinks is beneath him (like finding lost dogs.) But, as only the sitcom gods would allow, he comes around by the end of the episode. Predictable? Sure, but that's okay here because this is an ensemble that all really clicks together and why not hit the ground running. This could very well be for soldiers what Brooklyn Nine-Nine is for cops. It's as silly and charming as it is smart, and that's hugely in part to the cast, including Pete's no-nonsense boss Cody (played by the always-amusing Keith David.) In an ensemble this big, it's hard to remember all of the characters right off the bat, but keep your eye out for stand-up comedian Ron Funches as one of the unit's hilarious members.
Of course, it's the Hill brothers who anchor the show, and while Pete and Derrick's rough-around-the-edges demeanor may overlap at times, it's the sensitive Randy who balances them out perfectly. Stults, Lowell and Young are all very impressive in their respective roles (not to mention easy on the eyes), but most importantly, they're just really damn funny and actually feel like brothers.
The show is still working out some kinks (what show has a perfect pilot, after all?) but unlike so many new series from the past year where I felt content after one episode, Enlisted struck me as a series I could get invested in. Yes, it's abundantly clear that Pete will come to really love his whole platoon and that he will eventually hook up with the sexy and sassy sergeant Jill (Angelique Cabral), but you could say the same thing for Jake and Santiago over on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. That doesn't make the show any less hilarious or enjoyable. In fact, that was my favorite comedy of last year and Enlisted could very well pull of the same feat this year.
Enlisted probably won't become the M.A.S.H. of its generation, but it's still a show that's really worthy of your time. (I'm still baffled as to why Fox let this show get shifted around, but put Dads front and center in the fall.) It's a show that doesn't do a disservice to service men and women, and a comedy that doesn't do a disservice to comedy; a true diamond in the rough.
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