Review: Fox's new comedy 'Enlisted' packs in the laughs amid brotherly love
My threshold for what makes a comedy worth sticking with is, even if the laughs aren't coming every second, it's still compelling to watch. That's definitely the case with Fox's latest half-hour sitcom Enlisted, premiering tonight. Originally slated for the fall 2013 TV season but held until now, the show follows three brothers in the military who end up working together at a rear detachment support base in Florida.
The one thing Enlisted is not is a serious exploration of life in the military. And that's a good thing. Instead, it uses the setting as a backdrop for what it's really interested in: brotherly love.
Like the best sitcoms, the show feels lived in from the first few minutes. Tonight's pilot episode starts with a sweet montage of the boys as younger kids with their dad, who also served in the military and hoped to lead by example. After a brief present-day glimpse at oldest brother Sgt. Pete Hill's (played by Geoff Stults) stint in Afghanistan, he's sent home to Florida for disciplinary reasons and rejoins his two younger bros. They're screwups of varying degrees played by Chris Lowell as Derrick and Parker Young as the youngest, Randy. They're joined by a slew of wacky characters that make up the rest of the "Rear D" unit, many who leave a memorable (and funny) impression, and Keith David as Command Sgt. Maj. Donald Cody, who has a couple pretty funny gags in the first episode (that fake leg!). The show has plenty of places to go when it chooses to leave the central brother relationship.
Though that heartfelt sibling bond, something that's sorely underexlored on television these days, is without a doubt the heartbeat of the show. Plus, the brother angle is a really refreshing way to tackle ideas of masculinity that never really resonated on failed shows like CBS' We Are Men. The chemistry between Stults, Lowell and Young is very good, and a big part of why the show works so well from the get-go. The Hill brothers actually care about each other, an earnest quality you rarely see on TV, save for a Parenthood here and there. Young especially is great; he makes Randy a super sweet, slightly smarter version of the good-natured dumbell he played on Suburgatory. (He giggles at a female officer's use of the word "units.")
As good as the show is, we're afraid to get too attached. For some reason, it's been scheduled to air on Friday nights, a deadzone for TV notorious for low ratings. That doesn't show a lot of faith on Fox's part that it wants the show to succeed. And that's a shame, because Enlisted would fit in nicely with the network's smart, young-skewing lineup of Tuesday night comedies: New Girl, The Mindy Project, and especially Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the vibe of which it has a lot in common. Maybe when Dads eventually bites the dust, Enlisted can makes its way over to Tuesdays (pleeease, Fox?). As one of the most endearing new comedies of the past year, it deserves a chance to succeed.