Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Generation Kill"

I've now seen all seven episodes of the new HBO miniseries GENERATION KILL, which premieres tonight, and I have to say it's like nothing I've ever seen on television before. Taken from Evan Wright's book, drawn from his time embedded with a Marine Recon unit in Iraq in 2003, the series feels more like journalism than drama. It's a straightforward you-are-there narrative told from the point of view of the boots on the ground, with little or no time spared for big-picture perspective or pondering what it all means. It's brutally realistic, profanely funny and often disorienting. It's been brought to the screen by David Simon and Ed Burns, creators of THE WIRE, and, like that show, it never stops to fill you in or explain what's happening or who's who. It drops you into the midst of the chaos and trusts you'll figure it out along the way.

Because of that, like THE WIRE, GENERATION KILL may end up playing better on DVD than weekly television. Even watching the early screeners pretty much in a row I had to backtrack to pick up story elements or key points of dialogue I missed the first time. And it's so filled with military terminology and jargon that it can be hard to parse what exactly's being said, much less who's who in the chain of command.

I showed the screeners to a friend who spent four years in the 82nd Airborne (albeit 25 years ago) and he was over the roof about the show's verisimilitude and tone. Even though many of the details were Marine Corps-specific, he immediately recognized character types and parallel situations to the ones he'd experienced back in the day. And he gave high marks to the humor, which he found to be dead-on and precise. The show was "a lot like Shakespeare," he wrote me. " You don't need to know everything about it to get it."

Star-Ledger TV critic Alan Sepinwall has more on the show today, including interviews with Simon and Wright.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, great. Just when I switched to Showtime.

JMags said...

I will have to catch this on HBO repeats during the week since I missed it Sunday. I can remember reading Alan Sepinwall's column every Monday right after a new Sopranos appeared on HBO detailing everything that happened in the episode.

JMags said...

I enjoyed the first episode. Great production value. I'll be watching the rest of the episodes. Though its not suprising that HBO put out another quality program. HBO is the best channel on TV wether its dramatic series tv (Oz, Deadwood, Sopranos, The Wire, Six Feet Under, etc) or sports (HBO Boxing), sports series (Bob Costas, Real Sports) and documentaries (Jim McKay, Joe Louis:Betrayed, Brooklyn Dodgers, etc.). Its tv by adults for adults. NBC, ABC, CBS have almost become irrelavant.

Anna said...

The Baltimore Museum of Industry presents an exhibit of original artifacts, objects and behind-the-scenes footage from HBO's The Wire and other television and movie productions filmed in Baltimore. The exhibit Local Scenes on the Silver Screen: "Featuring the Wire," will run from April 30, 2008 through December 30, 2008. Check out David Simon talking about the wire at

tintin said...

I would say it's the best thing I've ever seen on the military and war.

With things like, The Unit and Army Wives, I was certain the reality of the military would never see the light of day. The truth of Genreation Kill is not pretty - - but it's a lot more interesting.

For those who really want to understand what's going on buy the book. Otherwise, you'll never know what the "Depends" are for.