“Over There”

overthereWell I think last night was the last episode of this show I can watch. It ended with a captured insurgent blowing himself and his fellow prisoners up. And it started with the pain-in-the-ass officer getting his guts blown out by a mine (I assume it was a mine).

“Over There” is just over the top in terms of pointless and graphic violence. You can see more guts hanging out in 15 minutes than you saw in all of “Apocalypse Now” or “Full Metal Jacket.” Even Sam Peckinpah’s “Cross of Iron” – which was brutal for it’s day back in the 1970’s – is tame in comparison.

There’s no point for it in “Over There” other than sensationalism. Blood is ratings.

Compounding this is the layers of “drama” that the producers feel must be part of the show. But not front-line drama – fear, loyalty, bravery, and so on. No, stuff back stateside … last night’s episode ran the gamut with autistic children, spousal abuse, and infidelity. What a mess.

Steven Bochco should go rent a few video tapes from the old series “Combat” and see how it can be done. That show had the same bassic premise – trace the actions of a small fireteam around the battlefield. It was a great show, and then didn’t need to resort to torsos flying through the air.

The more recent “Band of Brothers” is a shining example of the genre of made-for-television war dramas. It was all focused on the men in combat, there was no need for anything else. “Band” had violence a plenty, but none felt like it was inserted just to grab ratings. Death had meaning and a place in the show, but it wasn’t overdrawn.

Another thing that bothers me is the title. “Over There” always had a nostalgic significance in American culture – it was the song that the Doughboys sung when they went off to World War I. The first “great war” the U.S. fought in. Now it’s been tainted.

“Over There” does have a few things going for it. The actors do a good job and are, for the most part, believable. Most of the stereotypes are overdone – which is to be expected on prime time television. The depiction of tactics and operations is decent and the equipment used by all sides is authentic; thought the weapons mix shown for a rifle fireteam is probably not quite correct.

Many of the political issues involved with the fighting in Iraq are probably as messy as depicted. But there is virtually no depiction of some of the good things that go on – and there must be some.

Even the theme song … or I guess it’s more of an anthem … is bad. I guess it could be best described as bad rap lyrics as played by a 1st-round reject rock band from American Idol. There’s no poetry, just buzz words. Just like the show itself.

In short, “Over There” is a 60-minute rationalization for showing extremely graphic violence in prime time. If the show has a message, it is hidden by the sensationalization and multiple story lines. One minute the script almost glorifies martyrs and suicide attacks, and the next an insurgent has his upper half blown clean off with a rifle grenade. Maybe this is highlighting the futility of war, except that there’s no reaction within the script. It’s just shit that happens – which may be more “‘real” but tends to make it all seem pointless and without meaning as a television show.

Posted in TV