January 10, 2014

PREMIERING TONIGHT – THE SKED Pilot Review: “Enlisted”


ENLISTED:  Friday 9:30PM on FOX  – Change the Channel

Not all goofy, barely-functional family sitcoms are alike, and although FOX has paired the new ENLISTED with Raising Hope on its Friday schedule, the two aren’t much of a match.  Raising Hope is a very smart comedy about people who aren’t necessarily rocket scientists, while Enlisted–well, just isn’t.

You can see why, on paper, FOX thought the shows might fit together.  Enlisted gives us another family unit whose (sometimes grudging) love for each other outstrips its brains.  Our main protagonist is Sergeant Pete Hill (Geoff Stults), a soldier who can’t restrain himself from socking the officer whose neglect got Pete’s platoon shot up in Afghanistan, with the result that he’s demoted to a sleepy rear echelon base in Florida, providing support to the families based here.  (Think of them as the background characters on Army Wives.)  As it happens, both Pete’s brothers are stationed on the same base:  disaffected Derrick (Chris Lowell) and flat-out stupid Randy (Parker Young).  Reluctantly, Pete has to take charge once again of his siblings, as well as the sad-sack platoon he’s inherited.  The base commanding officer is Major Cody (Keith David), an old friend of the Hills’ deceased father, and Pete’s opposite number in charge of the other soldiers at the base is (need it even be said) lovely and snarky Jill Perez (Angelique Cabral).

Raising Hope is smart dumb, but Enlisted is just dumb.  Most of the gags come from Randy, who’s overemotional as well as thick-headed.  (The very idea that war-hero brother Pete has ever been afraid during battle puts Randy into a tailspin, which makes him insist on the brothers placing their hands on each other’s heads, since that’s how they used to comfort each other when they were kids.)  The rest of the comedy is built around Pete’s team of woeful would-be soldiers–not just one but two who are there for fat jokes, a meek woman who turns murderous when she thinks of her divorce, and assorted other idiots.  The idea of the show is that the Army’s rejects are put into home support units because they could never function in real battle, although there’s no explanation for why, in that case, Perez’s team is far more skilled.  But Pete knows that if they just work hard, and aren’t afraid to break some rules… yada yada.

Enlisted is written by Kevin Biegel, who created Cougar Town with Bill Lawrence and worked before that on his Scrubs, but there’s little of those shows’ intelligence or wit here.  Enlisted‘s idea of a great gag is that the black Cody, who lost a foot in battle, has a white prosthesis because, he tells Pete, his size only comes in white.  The Perez character seems to be there for romantic tension with Pete, but by the end of the pilot they’re already buddies, and both of them are seemingly single and available, so there’s no tension to be had.  The script leavens its dimestore humor with a similar level of sentimentality, as the brothers restore a cute dog to a soldier’s family, and realize–awwww–how important their work really is.

Enlisted isn’t painful to watch–it glides along (the pilot is directed by Phil Traill, a journeyman whose credits include Cougar Town and Raising Hope) without causing offense, and everyone in the cast is pleasant if unmemorable.  The bar for Friday night ratings is awfully low, and airing against Grimm, Hawaii 5-0 and reality shows on the other networks, the Raising Hope/Enlisted duo will provide the only comedy in their hour.  Hope deserves a better stablemate, but Enlisted may still draft an audience.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."