Judge Ryan Keefer has your review of Over There right here! On the Internet, of course.
"We didn't come for your oil! We came to kick your ass!"
Steven Bochco took a little bit of heat in 2005 for introducing a Gulf War show about a Gulf War that has yet to be resolved when he rolled Over There onto the basic cable buying public. Bochco's television bloodline is well-preserved among historians, with groundbreakers like Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and NYPD Blue among his list of successes. But then again you have shows like Cop Rock and Philly, lesser known and loved shows that didn't have much shelf life. So where does Over There fit into that line?
Facts of the Case
Well, Over There is housed in two slim line cases, with two discs in each case housing the series run. Just like they say in the pirate world, spoilers may be ashore! Regardless, the episodes as follows:
• "Roadblock Duty"
• "The Prisoner"
• "I Want My Toilets"
• "It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding"
• "Mission Accomplished"
• "Situation Normal"
• "Spoils of War"
• "Suicide Rain"
• "Weapons of Mass Destruction"
• "Follow the Money"
The reason why Over There may have fallen victim to possible cancellation is that while there is the understandable need to give time to the stateside characters, some of those characters are either repetitive (like Bo) or involved in a convoluted way to find one's self (like Mrs. B.). The only characters that are worth any real interest (Angel and Scream) don't have nearly enough face time associated. But what they get is really good, for different reasons. "Orphans" is a nice look inside the stoic façade of a squad leader who does possess a small comic book element to previous cinematic non-commissioned officers, right down to the cigar smoking. Angel's role in "Suicide Rain" was well-complemented by other good performances, but his is another interesting story to tell. If Over There does manage to come back for a second season, hopefully they can trim some subpar B and C storylines and cast away some poor characters in place of stronger ones.
For all the talk of this being a political series, there wasn't too much to be worried or concerned about for Red State voters. Granted, it's clear that Dim is the liberal of the bunch, particularly in "The Prisoner," but aside from a couple of sophomoric references to Abu Ghraib, I didn't really see anything to freak out over, and admittedly I was kind of looking for them. Those other troops that could be perceived as "anti-war" really want to be home on post more than anything else, which is more than reasonable.
There are a couple of featurettes here that are pretty brief, and the commentaries are OK. The first, with co-creator Chris Gerolmo (Citizen X) and his wife, is pretty bland, and sounds very poorly recorded, as they discuss the usual thoughts on the cast and production. The commentary on disc two with military advisor SSG Sean Bunch and Iraqi Advisor Sam Sako is markedly better, as they discuss how they made the actors' performances better, but they also share their experiences on being (pardon the pun) over there, and their insight is valuable. The cast commentary is cordial, but lacking any real conversation. The most valuable of the supplements is a one hour look at the filming of the final episode. It starts off by Bochco stating that the show was actually pitched to him by the network (F/X in this case), and not the other way around. And everyone goes out of their way to say that the show isn't political, honest to God. There are interviews by just about everyone that's a major cast or crew member and they talk about the attempts to "keep it real." And the inclusion of the actor's boot camp is nice as well. All in all, exhaustive things like this should be required on every disc or television set of substance.
There's various different angles and general camera trickery involved for the show, and some of it was done a little bit better in Three Kings and Saving Private Ryan, but for TV it's almost as impressive. Equally impressive is the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound that may not be as good as other larger-scale war films, but very respectable. Some of the battle scenes do get a chance to show it off with some gusto.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Some of the supporting characters, specifically Smoke, are a little tired. And the sensationalism that Bochco employs on the show occasionally borders on sophomoric. When you consider the first shot of the show is of Bo and his wife having some furious sex before he's deployed to Iraq, you know some of that nonsense is going to come, but it's still disappointing. I'd like to watch a Bochco show that was good and didn't employ some of these dumb tricks.
Those of you that will expect some dramatic license will see it, but not in gratuitous strokes that you sense coming. There are some good stories that are told, and the show sticks very close to the real-life experiences that some soldiers have had. So, on the level where it helps provide some insight into what's going on "over there," it's worth checking out.
The creators are found not guilty and are free to go, as their devotion to the soldiers fighting in Iraq is solid. However, Bochco's occasional creative touches are tired and slightly pathetic, and he is found guilty for corrupting an idea that originally had good intentions.
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