Harrowing TV

The show depicts the confusion, tension, bad decision-making, dearth of suitable equipment and the general chaos of the war. It doesn’t shy away from making out some of these Marines to be assholes. The repartee between them is thoroughly uncompromising and often very funny (especially from the mouth of fast-talking Cpl. Josh Ray Person [James Ransome]).

The calm in the center of the storm — the moral center of the huge ensemble cast — is Sgt. Brad Colbert (Alexander Skarsgard), a lanky natural leader who knows how to share a laugh with his men but never forgets for a second that war is a very serious business. And he doesn't let his troops forget it either, although a lot of the grunts seem to view the whole process as fun-and-games.

It was a good choice, I think, for the producers to have a main character be a particularly noble example of a U.S. fighting man.

I wouldn’t have expected Iraq War battle scenes to amount to much, mostly because we were led to believe on the homefront that the invasion was something of a walkover. That may be essentially accurate, especially when compared to more hotly contested wars, but GK is a stark reminder that these troops definitely found themselves in harm's way.

And although the firefights aren’t as crazy and chaotic as, say, Saving Private Ryan or Platoon, they still show situations that can put a shudder into you while sitting on the living-room couch.

For those of us intelligent and tasteful individuals who miss HBO’s The Wire — which was egregiously snubbed by the Emmys this year, yet again — let me suggest something of a surrogate.

It’s called Generation Kill, (9 p.m. Sundays, HBO) a seven-part mini-series about the Marines of First Recon Battalion during the initial 40 days of the Iraq War.

The show, which runs about an hour and a quarter, has the same visceral, hyper-real feel of The Wire. GK is based on a book by Evan Wright, who was embedded with the Marines as a reporter for Rolling Stone. Its executive producers include David Simon and Ed Burns (yes, from The Wire), who also do a fair share of the writing.

About The Author

Eric Snider

Eric Snider is the dean of Bay area music critics. He started in the early 1980s as one of the founding members of Music magazine, a free bi-monthly. He was the pop music critic for the then-St. Petersburg Times from ‘87-’93. Snider was the music critic, arts editor and senior editor of Weekly Planet/Creative...
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