Enlisted creator Kevin Biegel is "embarrassed" by the pilot of his charming new show that premieres on Fox Friday. "I’m proud of the pilot on a story level, but on a technical level I’m totally embarrassed by it," he explained in a telephone interview with The Wire last week. "We made too many mistakes and we didn’t do our diligence."
According to Biegel, the pilot—which starts the story of the three Hill brothers who serve together in a Florida-based rear detachment unit—didn't get all the nuances of military life right. Patches are misplaced, blouses are open when they shouldn't be, terms aren't exactly right, Biegel explained. So, the show is holding a "spot our errors" contest, in which viewers can write down what the show gets wrong and get an Enlisted challenge coin as a prize in return.
Biegel's frustration over the "snafus" in the pilot—most of which aren't noticeable to an untrained eye—speaks to how deeply respectful of military culture he is trying to be even as he mines the world for humor. The show emerged from Biegel's desire to create a brotherly TV dynamic that resembled the one he has with his brothers, and an interest in the military stemming from family and friends that served. He at first approached the military aspect of the show with "kid gloves," he explained. "I was kind of worried because the military is that world and people have been a little scared to do it, rightly so, because we’ve been at war for so long," he said.
But he decided the tone he had to take couldn't be one of parody, instead envisioning his show as a workplace comedy more along the lines of, say, The Office, an inspiration for Biegel, who co-created Cougar Town and wrote for Scrubs. "I realized, if you’re going to do a show set in the military right now, it can’t be a satire, it can’t be something that’s poking fun, you just have to make the show about characters and the workplaces where they work," Biegel said. "It’s kind of the background, but it has to color every single aspect of their lives. This isn’t like, hey we’re going to work at a bar. This is we’re doing a job that could potentially makes us lose our lives, that could potentially make us see some really scary stuff, that potentially could stick with me for the rest of my life, but also means the world to me because the characters on the show, the three brothers, on the show the military’s been in their family for generations, their father served and was killed in action."
And the show admirably confronts the realities of war, even when trying to establish its comedic tone. One upcoming episode shows the youngest, dopiest brother Randy (Parker Young) volunteering with a Family Readiness Group. In another, "Pete's Airstream," the eldest brother (Geoff Stults) deals with the aftermath of being in combat, and a desire to isolate himself from the rest of his platoon. "The Airstream episode, I’m really proud of that one," Biegel said. "We’re going to do a show and have the main character say, 'I’m not doing so great sometimes.' I think that’s hugely important." Biegel added that the last act of the season one finale plays more as a drama with some jokes. "I just think that joy and pain have to exist in equal parts of the world of this show," he said.
As for accuracy, Biegel said the show is fixing its mistakes. (Biegel does admit he had to "take a flyer" on the the show's reality when putting three brothers serving at the same post.) After the pilot, the show "hired as many military consultants as [it] could," including Musa Military Entertainment Consulting. Veterans consulting on set would tell stories that were worked into the plot of the show. "I know just from my friends how important—there’s pride in it, and even though we’re comedy we want to get that stuff right," Biegel said. "After the first episode we immediately fixed things, but I wanted to let people know and [co-executive producer] Mike [Royce] did as well that we screwed up, and maybe have a little fun."