Sponsorship

Sponsorship opportunities are available.

To learn about advertising with The Crossbow, click here.

Subscribe

Click here to
choose a feed

[What is a 'feed'?]

Click this for other subscription options.

Books by Tom Kovach

Dec 2006
Slingshot

Aug 2008
Tribulation: 2008

About the author

Tom Kovach lives near Nashville, is a former USAF Blue Beret, and has written for several online publications. In December of 2006, he published his first book, Slingshot. Tom's second book, Tribulation: 2008, was released in August of 2008.

Tom is also
an inventor, a horse wrangler, a certified paralegal, and a former network talk-show host. (He would like to lauch another talk show -- perhaps on your station.)

One highlight of Tom's career in the Air Force was serving on a protection detail for US President Ronald Reagan. Tom has also run for Congress (and might run again).

Join the group
Kovach4Congress

Click the link to visit
Tom Kovach's
official Web site

Public Speaking

To book Tom for a speaking engagement, please contact the 1SG Agency.

(When you contact them, ask what Tom Kovach has in common with Chuck Norris. Click here for a hint.)

Support

You can help Tom to change things by using this "donate" button


via your secure
PayPal account

NOTE: if the PayPal button does not work, then you can always mail a contribution. See this page for contact info.

January 2009

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Is CBS trying to kill "The Unit"?

Monday, 08 December 2008, at 2350 hours
Central Time -- Nashville, Tennessee, USA

Most of my writing is about very serious topics.  But, this one falls into the category of "Fun Stuff".  Regular readers know, however, that I even take my fun quite seriously.

Having grown up during "The Golden Age of Television", I've reached a point in life where I don't watch many TV programs.  Most of them are either "fluff", or are poor attempts to portray serious situations.  One program, 24, takes itself far too seriously.  (It used to be a good program.  But, the writers began giving Jack Bauer almost supernatural abilities.  It became "obvious" fiction, although the show's biggest success was built upon realism.)

There are only two shows left on TV that I watch regularly:  NCIS and The Unit.  My list previously included JAG (created by Donald Bellisario, who created the spin-off NCIS) and The Agency.  In the case of JAG, they went out at the top of their game after ten years on television.  It survives in syndication, and probably will for a long time.  The classic Magnum: PI (another Bellisario creation) remained in syndication for twenty years after its eight years as an active TV series.  (There has been occasional talk of a JAG movie or a reunion special.  Attention, producers:  I have a sample script available, if you'd like to read it.)

The plight of The Agency was far different.  Like the pioneering Mission:  Impossible, it seems to me that The Agency suffered from being "too" real.  Perhaps someone in the government got nervous, and then put pressure on the network to cancel the series.  The realism was by design.  Two former high-ranking CIA officers were the show's technical advisors.  Tony Mendez, the former Chief of Disguise (yes, that was his real job title) advised on the "inside" portions of the program.  (An entire section of the International Spy Museum is dedicated to Mendez' work to rescue American embassy employees held hostage in Iran.)  Baz Bazzel, a former Marine Corps intelligence officer and later CIA paramilitary operative, advised on the "field" portions of the program.  (Bazzel also appeared on the program, and as a competitor on the short-lived reality show Combat Missions.  That was the only "reality" show that ever had any actual elements of reality.)  The plots of The Agency were ripped from the headlines, and the scripts were skillfully crafted.

Side note:  Many bars around the country host Survivor parties, but I was the only person in the country to host a network-authorized Combat Missions TV-watching party.  (I still have the T-shirts.  Really.)  The first night that I hosted one, there was a big table of about 20 military recruiters in the audience.  Believe it or not, they had not yet heard of the program at that point.  But, when the show came on, they really got into it.  During a commercial break, I did a live telephone interview with Ed Bugarin.  A former Delta Force commando, and veteran of Operation Eagle Claw, Ed was another of the show's competitors.  (Shortly after the embassy takeover, I had gotten wind of the possibility of a rescue in Iran, and had attempted to join Delta Force back when it was still in the development stages.  It was called Project Blue Light back then.  I didn't make the cut.)  Sadly, the Combat Missions parties fizzled out, just like the series.  (Again, it was probably a case of "too much reality" for some folks.)

Anyway, with that background, you can understand that I take my fun seriously.  That includes my TV watching.  And, I'm getting a bad vibe that The Unit is about to go the way of The Agency.  The show went into a long hiatus last year, due to the writers' strike.  But, when other shows recovered, The Unit was still being replaced by the "reality" show Big Brother.  When this year's regular season started, The Unit made a surprise comeback.  But, it is now in the final time slot on Sunday evenings.  (Traditionally, that is a losing time slot, as people turn off the TV after the football games.  The Unit had been part of the "action Tuesday" lineup.)  And, the show is now opposite Army Wives — the top-rated show of Lifetime, the Left-tilting network billed as "television for women".  That juxtaposition would seem intended to create some "combat hot-spots" in living rooms across America — as husbands and wives battle for the remote control, thus deciding in "trial by combat" whether to watch a military show fueled by testosterone or estrogen.  (Has our society really devolved to that point?  Yep.)

If the network executives are not trying to starve Sergeant Major Jonas Blane and his team, then it seems that the scriptwriters are trying to stress them into self-expendability.  The Unit's commander, Colonel Tom Ryan, had an affair with the wife of one of the special operators, Master Sergeant Mack Gerhardt.  Later, Ryan and Gerhardt work elbow-to-elbow on an especially dangerous mission in the Middle East.  The team had already decided that Ryan must die for his transgression.  Tiffy Gerhardt tips off Ryan, just before the mission; but, Ryan accepts his fate as justly deserved.  The fight scene was amazing.  (Both experienced actors are also experienced martial artists, but I still think they really hurt each other in that scene.)  Blane stops the fight, because the mission is to rescue his daughter's convoy, which has been captured by terrorists.  (In the real world, the presence of his daughter would likely bar Blane's presence, as it could cloud his judgement ... or cause him to commit suicide if the mission failed.)  Ryan then offers himself in exchange, thus simultaneously aiding the mission and enabling the terrorists to become the executioners of his "sentence" for the affair.  Although I understand that such scenarios can become a part of real-life military operations*, I also think that the show's scriptwriters are trying to pack too much "emotion" into the program.  If they continue along that track, they will turn The Unit into a soap opera.  (No doubt, the writers are trying to appease the female viewers by adding so many distractions.  If they keep changing the nature of The Unit, however, then eventually there will be no distinction from Army Wives.)  (*I once served on an OSI-led protection detail for an Air Force wife who was going to testify against her husband for drug dealing.  He had given that info to his suppliers, who then put out a contract on her life.)

The Unit's wives have been forced into the position of behaving heroically, even if reluctantly.  Army intelligence discovered that some well-funded bad guys were keeping the wives under surveillance.  Colonel Ryan decides to whisk them away into a group undercover living arrangement, ostensibly to protect them.  But, it turns out that some of the bad guys are in awfully close proximity to their new lives.  (This story line has spread out over several episodes.  We still don't know how this happened.  Was it "chance", or is there a mole inside The Unit?)  Kim Brown becomes especially vulnerable, as she must act as bait by pretending to consider an affair with a traitor by whom she is disgusted.  (In the last episode, Kim was taken hostage, but the bad guy was later killed ... after he had killed an accomplice.  Does his organization still exist?  Has the cover been blown?  Are the wives still in danger?)  Through it all, Unit "senior wife" Molly Blane remains unsinkable.  She is everything a military wife should be:  loyal, patriotic, focused, smart, sexy, supportive, smooth-talking, and very savvy.  She summed it all up in one line that should become part of the ceremony for military marriages:  "A distracted soldier is a dead soldier!"  But, is it also true that a distracted viewer is a channel-changing viewer?  Is a show that is too close to reality destined to end up like The Agency?   (Sadly, there really can often be a lot of high-stakes drama in military marriages.  But, do we need to portray that on television for our enemies to watch?)

The Unit is playing very close to the edge right now.  Either it will unfold some story lines that restore some degree of stability, or it will implode under the weight of too much of a potentially good thing.  (If the show were on five nights per week, then some of these other story lines might carry better.  I understand that all soldiers, and special operators in particular, must be ready to "adapt, improvise, overcome" at all times.  But, I'm not sure that CBS executives can expect the same from a high percentage of their viewers.  (Although I hope they can, because The Unit certainly counter-balances a lot of other "fluff" programs with each episode.)

Time will soon tell whether CBS is trying to kill The Unit; or, if it is practicing Friedrich Nietzsche's maxim, "That which does not kill me makes me stronger."

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://tomkovach.us/blog-mt/mt-tb.fcgi/23


Hosting by Yahoo!

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Previous Entry:« Divine deadline for destruction of Damascus?
Main Page
Next Entry: Arctic oil BOOM, or cosmic quake? »

Categories