These soldiers say 'Over There' is 'bogus'

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    A truck tire hits a flagged wire, a roadside bomb explodes, a handsome private with shredded leg screams in agony. In the bloody chaos of the moment, his soldier buddies panic. One pukes.

    Stop the cameras! Sir!

    "People don't act like that when an i.e.d. (improvised explosive device) goes off. They make us look like idiots. We're not idiots!" said a first lieutenant previewing "Over There," the new TV series from Steven Bochco ("NYPD Blue," "Hill Street Blues") that debuts tomorrow night on FX cable network. It's set in Iraq, hyped as "true to life" by producers and hailed by critics as "unflinching" and "gut-wrenching."

    "Bogus" was the preferred adjective among the eight soldiers -- most of them Iraq vets -- viewing the series pilot last week at Camp Murray, headquarters of the Washington State National Guard in Tacoma.

    "Thank God that's over," said a master sergeant as the credits rolled.

    The uniformed skeptics dissected the series pilot scene by scene, beginning with the roadside bombing and panicked soldiers. Who, they asked, was pulling security? And what kind of idiot pulls off his helmet after a bombing attack? "In real life, training takes over. Not in Hollywood," said Sgt. Dan Purcell.

    The flags on the trip wires got an "F": roadside bombs in Iraq are typically hidden in watermelons, hay stacks, animal carcasses -- not marked for easy viewing. "A flag to mark an i.e.d.? What is that -- like don't land here?"

    Truck drivers also got eight thumbs down. "You do not, under any circumstances, pull off on the side of the road. You stop in the middle."

    The TV series, filmed in California, follows an Army infantry squad, flashing between soldiers' experiences in-country and the impact of their deployment back home in the States. It's billled as the first war drama built around a U.S. military conflict still in progress, a war with death tolls mounting daily.

    Bochco, who co-created the series with Chris Gerolmo ("Mississippi Burning"), has stated in interviews that the show is apolitical. "Ultimately, a young man being shot at in a firefight has absolutely no interest in politics," he told Reuters news service.

    But some camo-clad critics at Camp Murray were left wondering just what the message was in "Over There." One said a young soldier who brags about slitting the throat of a child sentry "makes us look like murderers."

    Master Sgt. Jeff Clayton complained that cameras deliberately dragged out the death scenes of Iraqi insurgents after a firefight, lingering unnecessarily on the carnage. "It made me sick."

    And where, soldiers asked, were the scenes of soldiers building schools, Iraqi kids waving American flags?

    The fast-paced premiere is packed with sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll; cool explosions and close-up gore; cussing and wrought emotion. It opens with the soldiers' goodbyes to family and a nervous flight to Iraq. In an instant -- "Yeah, right" -- the new dudes are belly-down in sand in front of a mosque full of insurgents, with two women accidentally trapped in the trenches, one with a big attitude and little common sense.

    "I can do it myself!" she yells at a soldier who tries to help her dig a trench. "You deaf soldier?" It's night, she's totally exposed to enemy fire and, when it starts, it's boy-soldier who has to push her head down to save her.

    No wonder the men keep asking, "What do we do about the women?"

    "I did not like the way the show presents men's opinion of women -- they act like the women were some other species," said Lt. Connie Woodyard, who returned from Iraq earlier this year. "We're not cowards. Women in Iraq are doing amazing things."

    The Camp Murray soldiers dismissed the military firefights as "bull---- " ("Where is the air support? Where is the armor support?"), the dialogue as contrived ("It sucked") and plot drivers as pure Hollywood.


    In the script, characters are thrown together for the first time. They constantly ask each other to explain nicknames. In real life, soldiers are sent to Iraq in units. "They don't have to ask each other's nicknames. They all know each other."


    After one week in-country, the soldier-actors mull life and death and war in eloquent speeches home to loved ones, talking about how war unmasks the monster within. "Nobody is that reflective after one week in-country. It's more like, "Ohmigod, we're in Iraq. Hi. What the hell am I doing here?"

    A few scenes passed muster. Heads nodded when a soldier opened up a packet of Taster's Choice freeze-dried and downed the whole thing. Nice detail. Ditto the scene of the earnest soldier describing the horrors of war via computer video e-mail as his adulterous wife is writhing in ecstasy with lover-boy back home.

    "But after only a week?" commented one soldier.

    "It usually takes at least two," added another.

    One scene hit home for the tough audience: an intimate close-up of two African American soldiers talking band-of-brother bonds. Says one: "If you're looking for another fool to risk getting shot to cover your fool behind, I'm right here beside you."

    Correct! Sir!

    Only one of the camo-clad critics, Sgt. John Figueroa, who is awaiting call-up orders to Afghanistan, said he'd watch it.

    "Hey, I'm into Hollywood," he said, shrugging.

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/tv/233932_over26.html
     

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