Enlisted is a sitcom that aired on the Fox network from January to June 2014 although it was officially canceled in May. The decision to cancel the show was an unpopular one among critics and many TV writers who felt that the show was funny, well-written and original, and blamed the low ratings on a poor time slot and episodes airing out of sequence.
Similar complaints were aimed at Fox back when cult sci-fi series Firefly aired, also canceled prematurely. Many fans still hope that another network or an online option such as Yahoo! or Netflix will pick up Enlisted as they have for other critically acclaimed shows like The Killing and Community.
If this truly is the end of the show, it’s sure to go down in TV history as a beloved series canceled too early, joining the ranks of such acclaimed favorites as the above-mentioned Firefly, Freaks and Geeks, Sports Night and Pushing Daisies. In the meantime, you can watch Enlisted online at Hulu.
The Plot: What is Enlisted About?
In the midst of a TV season where nearly every sitcom was about a parent-child relationship, Enlisted was a breath of fresh air. Set in a fictional U.S. Army company, it tells the story of the Hill boys, three very different brothers who all became soldiers, following in their father’s footsteps.
The oldest brother, Pete, is a staff sergeant who has been serving in Afghanistan but has returned back to the States after punching one of his superiors. The company he returns to is in Fort McGee in Florida, a military location that was invented for the show. The majority of the base has been sent overseas, but Pete finds himself supervising a platoon assigned to rear detachment, taking care of the base at home instead of being deployed. The platoon includes Pete’s two younger brothers, Derrick and Randy, as well as a mismatched group of misfits.
The Characters: Pete
While the show has a good supporting cast, there’s no doubt that the three brothers are the stars. Much of the humor comes from their differences in personality and responses to their positions at the base.
Pete is very much an alpha male — an aggressive but dedicated leader. He finds himself frustrated in his new position helping out local citizens with minor problems and creating floats for town parades. His restlessness and desire to get back out in the thick of the fighting makes him primarily the straight man of the show, constantly exasperated by the lackadaisical attitudes and incompetent attempts of the soldiers around him.
That’s not to say Pete doesn’t get his moments of humor. His obsessive need to be the best is the comedic center of the second episode, “Randy Get Your Gun.” The only other person on the base as motivated as he is Staff Sergeant Jill Perez, and the two are shown to be in unofficial competition right from the start. In this episode, the two tie for the base’s marksmanship trophy, so they concoct a series of elaborate contests to try and break the tie, including nighttime tracking, dissembling a firearm and even cooking a meal.
The Characters: Derrick
The middle brother, Derrick, has no desire to really be in the military at all. He loves being at Fort McGee as it allows him to get away with doing very little. The only task he works hard at is making himself look good and chasing beautiful women. One of his major plot arcs involves his relationship with Erin, a bartender who happens to also be a single mom. Derrick likes Erin but wrestles with the extra level of commitment required due to her son.
This story, unfortunately, got mangled in the network airing. The episode where Derrick and Erin meet was aired two episodes after one where they are clearly together. What could have been a very moving and powerful love story became a very confusing experience for viewers.
The Characters: Randy
The youngest brother is Randy, an enthusiastic but none-too-bright soldier who loves the idea of being in the army while simultaneously being unable to shoot a gun at a human-shaped target because he gets too emotional imagining a back story and family for the target.
He gets fewer serious story arcs than the other two but undoubtedly gets the hardest laughs, and in some ways, he is the true heart of the show. He’s the one who most believes that being in the military is about helping people. Pete likes the power and the accolades, Derrick goes along with it because it’s expected of him, but it’s Randy who truly believes in what they’re doing.
The three brothers are cast perfectly. Geoff Stults, known for his roles in The Finder and Happy Town, plays Pete with an air of determination that tells you right away what his character is like. Veronica Mars’ Chris Lowell gives Derrick enough charisma that we like him while making him sleazy enough that we hope he learns his lesson. Randy is played by Parker Young, previously known for another sweet-but-dumb character on Suburgatory, and it’s wonderful seeing him play a more prominent character in Enlisted.
The supporting cast is excellent as well. Keith David is a delightful mix of authority and ease in his role as Command Sergeant Major Donald Cody, and Angelique Cabral plays Staff Sergeant Jill Perez with all the energy she needs to be a great foil for Stults.
The platoon of misfits is rounded out with several character actors who deliver the comedy in spades, including Mel Rodriguez and Tania Gunadi. Unfortunately, we are left wondering how their characters would have been developed had the series made it past the first season.
Even if you didn’t manage to see the show before it ended, take a day or two to watch Enlisted online. You’ll laugh and smile and wish that more viewers had taken the time to check out this underrated gem.