Sunday, July 13, 2008
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.