By Rick Bentley The Fresno Bee
If you think the new Fox series “Enlisted” follows the grand tradition of “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” by taking a comical look at life in the military, then you should take a second look.
Sure, everyone’s dressed in fatigues. There are tanks, a military base and lots of saluting. But despite all the military trappings, series creator Kevin Biegel says “Enlisted” is all about family.
“I’ve got two younger brothers, and after ‘Cougar Town,’ I really wanted to do something that was really intensely personal.
“My relationship with my two younger brothers is the longest, best relationship I have in my life and they’ve been there with me through really difficult times and really great times and we’re still kind of locked into that 16-year-old mentality sometimes,” Biegel says.
“I thought it would be fun to write to something that was very much like that and then, also, write to something that kind of indulged in a world that I grew up in a little bit with a lot of family and friends in the military. So I just thought it would be good to set a show in world that is very intensely about brotherhood.”
Those brothers are played by Geoff Stults, Chris Lowell and Parker Young.
Stults gets the duty of portraying Sgt. Pete Hill, the older — and more military savvy — of the siblings.
He was on course to a major military career until he makes a big mistake and gets transferred to Fort McGee, a post in Florida where his two younger brothers — Cpl. Derrick Hill (Lowell) and Pvt. Randy Hill (Young) — are stationed.
The humor comes out of the older brother’s lack of respect for authority, the middle brother’s sarcastic look at life and the younger brother’s overly enthusiastic approach to duty.
Stults is convinced the comedy will work because of the focus on the brothers.
“The dynamic is about the relationship of three brothers who just so happen to be working together. So not only do we have to navigate working together, but we have to navigate the fact that I’m their boss and what happens when, during the day, I’m their boss, but at night, I’m just their brother and treated accordingly, so we have a lot of fun with that,” Stults says.
“Biegel is seriously writing about what he knows. About being the most handsome of three brothers and that’s why they cast me to be the most handsome of three brothers.”
(That comment gets looks of disdain from Lowell and Young.)
Basing the comedy on the brothers also helps ensure that the humor never comes across as mocking the military or being disrespectful toward those who serve.
“I have a lot of friends who do this job. And one thing that always struck me when I thought about doing a show that was set in the military is every time you see military in pop culture it’s one of two things. It’s either the superhero, call-of-duty soldier who has no personality or it’s someone so racked by PTSD that they can’t even function,” Biegel says.
“And those exist and that’s a reality, but there’s also a great swath of people in the middle who do this job and they do it nobly and they love it and they get frustrated by it sometimes and sometimes they do have a lot of fun doing it.
“We’re talking about 25 million people who are either active service members or veterans.
“So we wanted to set the show in this world, and we wanted to set a show showing this kind of group of misfits because it’s a very particular base and a very particular set of troops,” he says.
“We’re certainly not saying that all soldiers are like this.”
“Enlisted” airs at 9:30 p.m. Fridays on Fox.