Sometimes it is a nice thing to be pleasantly surprised. CBS’ new drama series “SEAL Team” had its debut with the pilot episode Wednesday night and from the look of the first showing, they did it right.
The good folks at CBS may have a long-term, viable hit on their hands if they can play their cards right. They’re certainly off to a good start. Why? Because it begins with a very good ensemble cast and the character development has the audience intrigued right off the bat.
David Boreanaz (does it seem like he’s been on tv forever?) is Jason Hayes, the iconic SEAL who is the unquestioned leader of the team and an operator who is struggling with the death of his best friend. He’s becoming frayed around the edges due to his deployment schedule and it has taken a toll on his home life, he’s currently separated from his wife Alana, played ably by Michaela McManus. So the writers have checked the blocks there. But it works because of Boreanaz.
Boreanaz is probably one of the most underrated actors around. One of the reasons for his longevity on the small screen is the fact that he can play the buff operator who can kick ass when he needs to while still having the ability to charm the birds out of the trees with his disarming smile (as when he makes eye contact with his daughter during her recital). He’s this generation’s, James Garner.
The character development works best when the SEAL Team is interacting with each other. I liked that they had the interaction between the SEALs and the support guys as the kind of disdain for Support or straphangers. The pilot was also free from the flag-waving politics that never find their way into the planning phases of operations except in Hollywood. Good job producers.
Hayes and his right-hand man Ray Perry played perfectly by Neil Brown Jr. are so joined at the hip that they can probably finish each other’s sentences. Perry knows Hayes probably better than his wife does, which has been a familiar refrain from every long-suffering Special Operations wife since time immortal.
Perry is the quiet, smart, badass who is not going to push the envelope but has enough juice that he can call out the boss without there being any semblance of insubordination. Perry’s home life is on much more solid ground than Hayes and he has a baby on the way.
Clay Spenser is played by Max Theiriot, he’s the 2nd generation SEAL who is being harshly judged because his father had the audacity to write a book about the SEAL Teams (now that sounds really familiar!). Spenser is trying to earn a spot on the Tier One unit run by Hayes and it is obvious from jump street that the two aren’t going to mesh right away. Spenser is brash and not a little cocky (what Special Operator isn’t?) but when he mouths off a bit too much at the “Big Chief” in the shoot house, the writers may have taken it a bit too far.
While I wasn’t a Navy SEAL, I can’t imagine the “Big Chief” tolerating that much BS. In Special Forces, he’d be sent back down the road with his tail between his legs. But the writers may be just trying to push the narrative that he’s a cocky sod, and it definitely gets the point across.
Jessica Paré plays the CIA analyst assigned to the team, Mandy Ellis. She’s focused on taking out the bad guy ISIS member in the pilot. We don’t see too much of her character in the pilot and what makes her tick. But the writers left the viewer just enough of a tease for the future. In the C-130 after the operation, Hayes and Ellis talk about what went right and wrong and she tells him that it was all in all a good day. Their eyes lingered a bit too long there…. Fodder for an upcoming tryst between the two? It would make for a compelling story line, especially with Hayes’ marriage on the rocks and the problems that it would bring with the two working so closely together.
The action sequences were good but not overdone and there was just enough of the cool guy helmet cam footage to satisfy those Call-of-Duty folks. I especially liked the footage attached to Dita, the team’s Belgian Malinois dog, no she’s not a German Shepherd.
There was a couple of groaners in the pilot but just a few. The scene at the site of the First Communion for Hayes’ daughter where everyone’s phone goes off at the same time has been overdone too many times now and inspired a “ugh, not that” response. And a few of the lines, including the “We Got This” was a bit over the top. I hope that we never talked like that back in the day. Or perhaps it was a slam at noted whistleblower/traitor Chelsea Manning who puts the hashtag #WeGotThis on every one of her Tweets. In that case…good job. We Got This!
Watching from the decidedly much smaller screen in my bedroom, it seems like the producers got the equipment and kit of the operator’s right. However, I’m sure some of our readers watching from the big IMAX screens in their home theaters will pick out a few faux pas in terms of the gear.
Coming into the pilot episode, I’ll admit I was A.) looking forward to this and B.) expecting to be disappointed. But the opposite was true. It is an above average military drama. Perhaps not as gritty as Homeland, but this is network television. But it is trying to depict the SEALs in a true light, they’re regular dudes with a very atypical vocation, And they are trying to depict the Special Operations missions in a true light, with good character development and true to life personal interactions. The characters aren’t cardboard cutouts. If the writers can keep this up….”SEAL Team” will be a hit.
Photo Courtesy: CBS