Thursday, October 27, 2005


I don't do a lot of TV reviews, but I have to say that the show "Over There" by Stephen Bochco (FX) is by far the best television show I've ever seen. It is deftly scripted, goregously shot, and compellingly executed on every level.

In spite of grousing that just showing violence in Iraq means you must have an anti-war bias, I find the show to be remarkably un-political and the only bias is against the stupidity of man's inhumanity to man...and there is plenty of stupidity and inhumanity on all sides of the story in this drama. I don't think people should get bogged down in a debate over the reality of the show. It's on TV, that should tell you that it isn't entirely real. If you want reality, enlist. In many ways it is as real as it can be, but it doesn't pretend to be anything but fiction. In fiction you willingly suspend disbelief in order to arrive at the moral lesson taught by the work of fiction. There are lots of important themes in this show, and are worth looking past the political fueding of the left and the right in order to find.

I really recommend the show to everyone because it allows (via the tool of fiction) a means of dealing with the reality of the war. For people on both sides of the issue it helps us to frame our support for the troops and remember that while we sit in air conditioned or centrally heated comfort typing away on our blogs or watching Fox News there are real people doing the real things that may very well result in their deaths....but because it is fiction, and the characters iconic, we aren't devastated or made numb by the violence, allowing us to continue. Which, at the end of the day, is what the real soldiers are fighting for.

The show does all the things that the critics on both sides of the issue say the media isn't doing in real life--it shows good things the soldiers are doing, and the horrors of war. It shows the consequences of compassion...which can be a heart and mind of a former enemy won over to your side or a suicide bomber that got past you and kills five of your friends.

Fiction doesn't trivialize an issue, traditionally it has been a very effective tool to help the average person understand the complexity of an issue and then to take whatever action they deem appropriate. I would hope that a show like this can help the most knee-jerk anti-war liberal remember that the soldiers are real people who are making tremendous sacrifices for what they believe in, and help the most die-hard neo-con remember that the same is true of the insurgents.

The first thing you have to do in a war, regardless of your side, is dehumanize the enemy so that your side will be able to kill them with frequency and efficiency without the guilt that a person under normal circumstances is supposed to feel when they kill somebody. Unfortunately, that very principle is what makes a war so hard to stop and a peace do difficult to maintain.

A show like this can help keep the complete perspective and remind us that even when we're fighting a war "over there" so that we don't have to fight it "at home"...war is still hell. It is fought to create peace which is lasting and just. It is never an end in itself.

Last night was the last episode of the season. I don't know if it will be renewed. Maybe by next season the war will be truly over and it will be moot, but I wouldn't count on it. Last night's episode ended less like a cliff hanger making you want to see next season's opener and more like the end of a mini-series...with the central character, the sergeant, saying, "The lucky ones live to feel guilty."

I don't think Bochco or anyone else is confident that the series will return, and its ratings have been low enough to justify that concern....but its a shame. It really was, for at least a season, the best thing on television I've ever seen.

Anyway, that's what I think.

Other people think other things.

Some Like It:

Some Hate It:

Read More Reviews

Write your own review in the comments section, I'd be interested to read them.


Blogger R said...

Well Archie...looks like I won't have a chance to check it out. I just read in the Denver Post that this series was cancelled. Seems after the initial interest people stopped watching. Probably because it hit too close to home.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Archie Levine said...

I'm pretty sure it will come out on DVD, and I'd recommend picking it up...or asking your local library to stock it.

It really was exceptional.

12:31 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home