|Pop Culture Gadabout|
Friday, March 17, 2006 |
( 3/17/2006 06:01:00 AM ) Bill S.
TOUGH GUYS . . . AND WIVES – Caught the second ep of The Unit this week (have the first on tape somewhere but haven’t gotten to it). I generally enjoy David Mamet when he's in Graham Greene-ish "entertainment" mode (Untouchables, House of Games, this series) than I do his more serious works of theater (American Buffalo, Oleana) – and his scriptwork here has much of his trademark toughness. Dennis Haysbert is as commanding as you'd expect him to be playing the head of a tip-top secret ranger unit, while Robert Patrick finally gets a chance to make up for those two (or was it three?) blown seasons of X-Files floundering as the in-the-know commander of Haysbert’s clandestine unit. The rest of the male cast has more than a whiff of Rat Patrol about 'em, but perhaps we'll get a better sense of who they are over time.
The episode divides its time between our heroes' sweat-inducing mission and the wives who wait at home. Gotta admit, I was a little wary, wondering how they'd handle this second aspect of the story – would we be treated to too many scenes of distraught base wives telling each other to keep their chin up? – but it was reasonably well-handled. Regina Taylor, playing Haysbert's experienced wife Molly, is the secret here, I suspect. She's tough, appealing and totally unlike all the other actress-like women in the cast.
This entry's mission revolved around retrieving a fallen Chinese satellite somewhere in the desert: our heroes work to keep it from the hands of an African group and their terrorist leader – and wind up trekking across the hot sands with the wounded terrorist on a stretcher. Back home, a member of the unit (Scott Foley) is interrogated by an F.B.I. agent who's peeved because our heroes had apparently trod on the bureau's turf in the pilot episode. Yeah, yeah, damn rule-bound pencil pushers keeping the real soldiers from doing the work that needs to be done: haven't seen that on a show since, oh, the ep of N.C.I.S. that aired an hour earlier . . .
I wasn't bored watching The Unit, even if the hopped-up part of me that's been gleefully gobbling up this year's 24 kept wishing they'd amp up the melodrama instead of working so hard at treating it all like another day at the office. (On the other hand, wouldn't it be cool if the overblown adolescents who comprise the CTU office talked like David Mamet grown-ups?) There were some fine small bits in the episode – Haysbert's guarded interaction with his prisoner, a moment when Foley's left-behind soldier blows up at his wife over a mis-delivered communiqué – that you know are better for Mamet's involvement. A series to keep an eye on, especially on those weeks Fox shoves House aside for one of its crappy puffed-up reality shows . . .