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Welcome to Fort McGee and 'Enlisted' on TV

Sep. 15, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
From left: Cpl. Derrick Hill, Sgt. Pete Hill and Pvt. Randy Hill are characters in the new Fox show 'Enlisted.' The cast includes, from left, Chris Lowell, Geoff Stults and Parker Young.
From left: Cpl. Derrick Hill, Sgt. Pete Hill and Pvt. Randy Hill are characters in the new Fox show 'Enlisted.' The cast includes, from left, Chris Lowell, Geoff Stults and Parker Young. (Fox)
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'Enlisted,' a new sitcom coming in January from Fox and creator Kevin Biegel, is pop culture's latest attempt to portray military life.

'Enlisted,' a new sitcom coming in January from Fox and creator Kevin Biegel, is pop culture's latest attempt to portray military life.

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“Enlisted,” a new sitcom coming in January from Fox and creator Kevin Biegel, is pop culture’s latest attempt to portray military life.

It’s a workplace comedy much like “30 Rock” or “Parks and Recreation,” but instead of a sketch comedy show or a local government agency, it’s the day-to-day life of soldiers.

Biegel said it’s inspired by the military careers of many of his friends and family members, and the tales they’ve told him about their service.

“It’s such an interesting life, it’s funny as hell and there are so many interesting stories there,” he told Military Times.

“Enlisted” follows a ragtag platoon serving in a rear detachment with the fictional A Company, 2nd Battalion, 618th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 18th Infantry Division (Mechanized), at the fictional Fort McGee, Fla.

Staff Sgt. Pete Hill, played by Geoff Stults of “Ben and Kate” and “The Finder,” has just been busted to E-5 and sent home from Afghanistan for slugging his commanding officer.

Now he’s the platoon sergeant (suspend your disbelief for a moment) for a unit his two younger brothers — Cpl. Derrick Hill and Pvt. Randy Hill — just happen to be assigned to.

Biegel’s credits include co-creating the Fox show “Cougar Town” and writing for “Scrubs” and “South Park.” Though he made an effort to keep things as squared away as possible for the pilot, he admitted some details fell through the cracks. When the trailer for “Enlisted” hit the Internet in May, Army Times readers on Facebook had a field day commenting on the characters’ long hair and other issues.

For the Jan. 10 premiere date, “we’re trying to make it as grounded as possible,” he said.

Q. Why a show about the Army?

A. My dad served, my brother served, so many people in my life have served, and I’ve always wanted to do a brother show, based on my relationship with my brothers. I didn’t want to do another “single people in New York, single people in” Los Angeles show.

I’ve got a bunch of friends I grew up with who served, who still do serve. I have a friend who was in the Army for a while who always told me a million stories about it and that was one of the things that I kind of based this on, his experiences.

It’s something that for some reason, I don’t know why, it’s just not really on TV that much. And I just thought it was important that it was.

Q. Who consults on the show, to keep things accurate?

A. For the pilot we had a wardrobe guy that, it turned out, did a horrible job, because there was a lot of stuff we missed. It was literally just my four buddies who kind of read over the script and gave me notes and stuff.

Now we have MUSA, the company that does consulting for military things. On set there’s a wardrobe guy who is an ex-Special Forces guy, who literally his only job is to make sure that the wardrobe is perfect.

Some would say I’m going overboard as far as trying to get things right, but I am crazy right now trying to get everything as right as possible. That’s the stuff that we can’t screw up and I feel bad that we did screw some of that stuff up in the pilot.

Q. How did the actors prepare for their roles?

A. The cast went to [acting] boot camp at Fort Bliss, Texas, and had an amazing experience, because it wasn’t pussyfooting around. They did what they needed to do and came away with an even greater respect for the job and the people.

None of them now are comfortable taking any liberties with anything. Parker [Young], who plays the youngest brother, he will not do a scene outside unless his cover’s on.

Q. What kinds of stories will the show tell?

A. I would love to do a first season of a show where we explore a little bit how the main character, Pete, isn’t really exactly the same once he gets back from overseas, and he’s trying to figure out what that means. And his brothers are trying to figure out what it means that their brother was in combat for a couple of years and he’s coming back and he doesn’t seem 100 percent the same.

Some of the stories are a little more ridiculous than other ones, but all of them are very much based in either a real situation or a real thing some of my friends have gone through or a real thing I’ve read about or a real thing the consultants talked to us about.

Q. What do you hope soldiers, other service members and civilians get out of the show?

A. I hope they see some shades of what they do in their real life on screen. I hope they laugh. I hope they relate to the characters at least a little bit.

I always want to make sure that people know that there’s no disrespect, there’s no mocking. This isn’t some kind of satire. It’s just a show set in a workplace, populated with characters that are close to my heart. It’s just coming from a place of total respect and I hope that people give it a chance and see that there’s something a lot deeper going on than maybe what the trailer provides.

We want them to engage the show, too. We’re going to do shout-outs at the end of every episode to units overseas. There will be a contest after the pilot airs where any active-duty service members can send in the top 30 things we got wrong in the pilot, and we’ll send them a special unit coin we had made for the show, and a T-shirt.

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