It doesn’t take a media scholar to come up with the names of shows that probably inspired “Enlisted.”
A little bit of “Stripes,” a hint of “McHale’s Navy” and a touch of “Private Benjamin” can be found in the new Fox comedy about three brothers assigned to a Rear Detachment unit.
There, they don’t get up at Zero Dark Thirty. They take care of the families of soldiers who do. In Rear D, they mow lawns, sort mail, find dogs.
For two of the Hill brothers, that’s OK. But for a third – Staff Sergeant Pete Hill (Geoff Stults) – it’s a real step down. He was on that glory track when he punched an officer and was sent stateside to Fort McGee where his younger brothers are stationed. Randy (Parker Young) is the gung-ho fit one (who could be a player some day if he weren’t so dim); Derrick (Chris Lowell) is the sarcastic one.
The three come from a military family and dad left a strong impression. Unfortunately, they all don’t possess dad’s drive. When they’re forced to work together, Pete rebels then has to be reined in by Command Sergeant Major Donald Cody (Keith David), an old family friend who knows better.
Worse, the soldiers assigned to Pete are about as weak as they can get. If they’re not overweight, dumb or physically unfit, they’re related. And so, it becomes the elder brother’s mission to shape them up.
Created by Kevin Biegel, “Enlisted” has some very smart moments that suggest this isn’t just a throwaway Friday night series. Young is a great physical comedian who can find laughs where they’re not written. Lowell has the right snark to keep this from devolving into a tribute. And Stults is just enough of a leading man to carry it off.
While some of the situations are pretty hokey, there’s hope “Enlisted” could be a telling look at soldiers who don’t always get the salutes and parades. They’re needed, too. They just may not be on the front lines of battle.
To make sure the military gets its due, Biegel and company have enough moments of “real” training and a few good men and women who don’t look like bumblers. Jill Perez (Angelique Cabral) may shape up as a rival (and love interest) for the brother most likely.
Still, “Enlisted” isn’t entirely ready for promotion. It has to discharge a few clichés and run the brotherhood thing through a few more paces.
But the pilot shows there’s worth and, yes, maybe even a pat on the head.
“Enlisted” premieres at 8:30 p.m. Friday on Fox.