Saturday, March 15, 2014

7 Reasons You Need to Watch FOX's 'Enlisted'

I’m kind of easily persuadable when it comes to television series. My sister has told me I need to watch Pretty Little Liars. Jaime was the one who got me into both Community and Sherlock. And my Twitter timeline is the reason I started watching Enlisted, Fox’s newest comedy. Because I like Geoff Stults (I’ve enjoyed him since his days on 7th Heaven – yes, and I’m not denying it) and because my friends generally have good taste, I vowed to watch the series. Imagine my utter joy, then, when I discovered that every episode was already available to watch on Hulu, allowing me  to easily catch up with the series.

I fell in love with Enlisted from the pilot episode which honestly very rarely happens, even in my absolute favorite series. Community’s pilot? I didn’t love it. Parks and Recreation? Meh. New Girl? It was good, but not the best. And it is so amazing and rare to find a sitcom that fires on all cylinders from the pilot episode. But as The AV Club noted (and I rarely totally and completely agree with their gradings but I do with their reviews for this show), this is a show that manages – from its very first episode – to find the heart without the intense saccharine and cliché and find the comedy without the overkill. That’s so rare these days and I agree with their assessment of Enlisted having the very best comedy pilot of the 2013-2014 season. The writing on this show is witty and touching and so solid that I have found myself enjoying every single episode that I have had the opportunity to watch. And you all know me: I’m very picky when it comes to my comedies.

So I thought that I would spread the television sitcom love. When you care about a series, you need to tell others about it. I’m about to give you seven very compelling reasons why YOU need to catch up with Enlisted and watch what has quickly become one of my favorite comedy series. Let’s do this!*

*None of the following GIFs belong to me because I can't make GIFs. I'm the worst.

7. The show is set in Florida.

Okay, perhaps this one is a bit superficial but I really love that this series is set in Florida because that’s where I currently live. There’s so much potential, too, for Florida-related jokes and humor which I appreciate. There is also the fact that this is literally one of the greatest places in the country to reside in, weather-wise as we don’t have to contend with winter or snow or any of that other gross stuff that I used to have to deal with when I lived in Pennsylvania. And when Pete Hill gets transferred back to Florida, he’s disappointed and dejected that he has to move back to where his brothers are. He laments having to live in Florida, really, and I love the random comments about the state peppered throughout the episodes (especially noting the absurdity that always seems to happen in the state in the episode “Parade Duty”).

6. The “ship” isn’t the focus.

A lot of people watch shows because of the relationships contained within them. I love Community because of the study group; I love New Girl because of the loft. But sometimes, people watch shows exclusively (or majorly) for a certain ‘ship. I, admittedly, renewed my interest in The Mindy Project because of Danny/Mindy. I know other people who have had similar experiences, too. But what is so delightful about Enlisted is that it proves a show doesn’t have to hit the “overkill” button on a will-they-won’t-they relationship and it can still succeed. Pete/Jill isn’t even a thing or supposed to be a thing or supposed to be the FOCUS… and it isn’t, which is why I love this show so much. It seems like the kind of sitcom that knows what it is about, at its core. It knows that it is a story about three brothers who are learning to be friends and soldiers. It’s about learning to accept that you are in the place you are for a reason. It’s about family and friendship and love and loss. It’s a show about being a soldier and it never uses that subject matter to make a mockery out of them.

So when I say that Enlisted doesn’t make a ‘ship or potential ship the focus of the show, I say it with a sigh of relief and sense of refreshment. Whether or not the show ever goes that route with Pete/Jill (I love their chemistry as friends at the moment), I know that the writers won’t draw out the relationship or chemistry and dive into clichéd territory. I appreciate that they’re allowing the true focus of the show to shine: the ensemble.

5. The supporting cast is just as hilarious as the main cast and just as flawless.

Speaking of the ensemble, Enlisted is about the three Hill brothers, primarily, but the focus is really on Rear D, which is made up of a group of wacky, weird, less-than-superiorly-skilled soldiers. Each has come to the Army for a different reason and each has been placed in Rear D for one as well. In a show that has so many characters, it would be easy for the minor ones to be outshone by the likes of the Hill brothers, but that’s just not the case. While I completely and utterly adore Geoff Stults, Parker Young, and Chris Lowell, the supporting cast is just as hilarious and just as worthy of praise.

“Rear D Day” is such a fantastic episode because it showcases the non-Hill members of Rear D so effortlessly. Private Park is this hilarious little ball of energy and occasional darkness (reminiscent of Lauren in The Crazy Ones, actually); Chubowski is hilarious and goofy and well-meaning; Dobkiss is most definitely an arsonist and he’s got this hysterical creepy factor about him; Gumble is endearingly nerdy and meek; and Robinson has so much personality, attitude, and sass. 

In addition to the amazing members of Pete’s platoon, “Rear D Day” also manages to showcase the best of Sergeant Major Cody – a part of the main cast –  who is literally one of my favorite characters in a comedy at the moment. His dry wit and sarcasm, gruff attitude, and occasional tendency to mix up words and phrases is both funny and endearing.

If you don’t watch the show for the main cast, definitely watch it for the supporting one, as they are one of the best ensembles on television right now. (But watch for the main cast, too. Just watch this show. Please.)

4. A ragtag group of people led by a reluctant leader is kind of my jam.

If you couldn’t already tell, I’m a huge fan of shows that feature a reluctant leader who is forced into the role of caretaker over a group of misfits. So this means that Enlisted is right up my alley. Over the course of the first few episodes, Pete Hill has been sent to Florida from Afghanistan, where he was an active soldier to Rear D, where he is in charge of a platoon of soldiers who are the worst out of the bunch. To add to his list of woes, Rear D is a group of soldiers at Fort McGee who are meant to take care of the base while the soldiers of the families stationed there fight oversees. Pete WAS that guy, not too long ago, and in the pilot episode of the series (and quite a few thereafter) he laments the fact that he used to be a hero. He resents having to be at Fort McGee, even though it was his own lapse in judgment that sent him there.

Pete is less than thrilled to be leading a platoon who can’t seem to do much right, but he learns over the course of the pilot episode and throughout the remainder of the episodes thus far, that though he was branded a hero overseas, he needs to treat his soldiers like actual human beings. He needs to show them what it looks like to respect others and to do whatever it takes to complete a mission, no matter how menial (which is why he returns a missing dog to its rightful owner at the end of the pilot even though it costs him his pride in the process). Pete is still adjusting to being in Rear D, but I think he’s learning to accept it as a part of his life, just as Jeff Winger accepted being at Greendale. It’s a process but I love that Pete is a genuinely good guy who really does care about his platoon and his family. I’m excited to watch him grow in his love for the soldiers in the future.

3. The wit, sarcasm, and hilarity of this show is impeccable.

Have I mentioned how absolutely hilarious Enlisted is? Each character boasts a different brand of comedy (I think that Derrick’s perfect sarcasm is one of my favorite things on the show) and each kind is hilarious. When a show works, the writers cater to and focus on the natural ability of the actors – they work with their talents, not against them. The writers of Enlisted do such a fabulous job at figuring out what works, comedically, for each cast member and their respective character. I genuinely laugh out loud while watching the show. It’s a perfect blend of sass, sarcasm, wit (the show is a smart comedy – it doesn’t go for the broad laughs; it goes for the ones that make you think), rapid fire jokes, and pratfalls. The show balances out each type of comedy – there are flashbacks in some episodes that denote hilarious activities or events; Derrick utilizes his sarcasm in nearly every episode; Randy’s adorable aloofness, etc. – impeccably and keeps me laughing with each episode. If you’re looking for a refreshing new comedy, this is the one.

2. It's about FAMILY.

I love shows about friendships, don’t get me wrong, but I think that the backbone of Enlisted will always be – and should always be – the relationship between the Hill brothers. These are three completely distinct men with three separate personalities: Pete is courageous and determined and a leader; Derrick is dry and sarcastic and a slacker; Randy is emotional and optimistic. What makes the show work so well is the focus on this relationship, which – clearly – needs repairing. Derrick and Randy are upset with Pete for the lack of communication he provided when he was overseas. Pete is discouraged by the lack of progress and improvement that he sees in his younger brothers. But each brother learns, over the course of the episodes that have aired, the importance of supporting each other in spite of their differences. I love that Enlisted is classified as a “comedy of optimism,” which is something my blogging friend Sage has always said about Parks and Recreation. It’s a show that knows the importance of family and familial bonds; it’s a show that cares about developing and strengthening their relationship.

Episodes like “Pete’s Airstream” and “Vets” were just so fundamental, so impactful, and so integral to the direction that this show is going toward. And for the record? I love it. I love that the boys are learning how to become brothers again and how to love each other when they’re together, not when they’re apart. I love that Randy and Derrick care about supporting Pete in his post-Afghanistan state. It’s difficult for Pete and it’s difficult for them to know how to handle a soldier just returned from war who has seen friends and comrades fall. And Pete is struggling to reconnect to the two brothers he left behind when he went to war.

I love the Hill brothers, with all of their flaws and amiable qualities, and I’m looking forward to seeing them developed even more.

(The brilliantly meta joke at the end of the pilot when the Hill brothers see the three young boys with the dog was how I knew this show would be something special.)

1. It's already made me cry at least four times.

The main reason you need to watch Enlisted is this: it is a sitcom that manages to balance the comedy and the serious subject matter without missing a beat. Where other shows would fall into the territory of overreaching or undercutting emotion for the sake of laughs, this show soars. This show has made me cry several times already (including the most recent episode “Vets” where Geoff Stults’ delivery of his final line drove me to tears) and I think that The AV Club absolutely pin-pointed the beauty of this show in that it shows respect for soldiers and for families of soldiers; it’s a show that finds its heart in not just the characters but in the subject matter. Its focus is always on how to best represent this lifestyle and these people and Enlisted absolutely and perfectly manages to do this. It’s a funny s how, no doubt, and that is always important.

But what is most important, in my opinion, is for a series to find its heart and to never leave it behind. Enlisted has managed to do that from its pilot episode, with the gesture of the Hill boys placing their hands on each others’ heads. It did that in “Pete’s Airstream” with Pete’s platoon sitting quietly outside his trailer, letting him know that even though they couldn’t do anything to help him recover from being back from war, that they would BE there if he wanted them to. This is a show that extracts the genuine heart from every scenario and allows us to bear witness to that. It’s not a show that forces sentiment or saccharine; it’s a show that finds the deeply genuine parts of humanity and I love that.

So there you have it, folks! I’ve given you seven reasons why YOU need to be watching Fox’s Enlisted. You can catch up on all of the episodes on Hulu or Fox’s website. Additionally, new episodes air on Fridays at 9 PM. Watch. I give you my promise that you will not be disappointed.


  1. This show stole my heart with the first episode!

  2. So very well written! I have seen all the episodes and I 100% agree, although I couldn't have conveyed it as eloquently as you have!