This week, Steven Bochco’s highly anticipated Iraq war saga, “Over There” comes to FX. It is the first time in television history that a series has dramatized a war still in progress. Bochco’s co-creator, Chris Gerolmo has said that it will have all of the drama of “Law and Order,” all of the action of “24” and all of the gore of “CSI.”
When first approached, Bochco was reticent about putting a war show on TV – after all, half the country is against the war – but everyone feels for the soldiers over there fighting – who’s going to want to see them in dramatic situations? Early word on the show is that it is going to be the best thing on TV in a long time.
Score another one for Bochco, who made the great “Hill Street Blues” and then “NYPD Blue.” However, where does this leave his political leanings and which political group is going to glom onto the show? Surely a point of view will have to be taken in order to portray this war. Wouldn’t a war from Bush’s perspective be different than a war from John Kerry’s perspective? Or Jon Stewart’s, for that matter?
Bochco has stayed mum on the subject, offering up instead: “I don’t want to politicize the show in any way…. I think the moment you take a political position, you’re not doing what art is supposed to do, which is to ask provocative questions.”
But isn’t it worth taking a bet on which talking head will claim ownership first. I remember the moment I heard Pat Buchanan loved “The West Wing.” It lost all of its sexiness somehow, but proved itself above partisan politics. Will “Over There” be the same? Or will it be held up as a badge of honor for Bush, replacing the anger many Americans feel with drama and sympathy?
Half of the show will involve what’s happening over here as opposed to over there – families who have lost or are waiting for loved ones and perhaps the way Americans hear about or not what really happened on the war torn streets of Baghdad.
Either way, there is only one good that can come of this, because certainly the last thing our soldiers need is for civilian Americans to relate to them via a fictionalized version of what they’re enduring. These actors aren’t on the front lines, they’re in costume and makeup and can go home and be with their families at the end of the day. And they’re getting paid and becoming famous.
But if this show helps give soldiers a way to share their experience, especially if it hits the right notes, it won’t have been in vain.
“Over There” will air Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. on FX.
Meanwhile, subscribers to DirecTV will get a special treat in the coming month with a sneak preview of network shows. Only subscribers will have access to channel 101, which will show 30-minute previews of all of the programming on the major networks, as well as HBO and Showtime.
First up is FOX, which will air its previews August 1 through August 7. Next, Showtime, airing from August 8 through August 14. WB will air the following week, August 15 through the 21st, followed by NBC, ABC, HBO, CBS, UPN, you get the idea.
Apparently, the programming will automatically be downloaded to all TIVO subscribers to view at their leisure. It is as unprecedented as it is downright sneaky. How will the cable providers compete? They won’t. Mostly because they don’t have to; they know we’re at their mercy.
Thursday, July 28
The Fugitive (****), with the ever-reliable Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, 7:30 p.m., TNT.
The Grifters (****), still the best thing Annette Bening ever did, 8 p.m., IFC.
Mostly True Stories: Urban Legends, 8 p.m., TLC.
Hooking Up, in case you were wondering the genetic fate of 30 somethings in Manhattan, 9 p.m., ABC.
Friday, July 29
The Art of War (***), 7:30 p.m., TNT.
The French Connection (****), 7:30 p.m., FMC.
The Cheetah Girls (**), 9 p.m., DISNEY.
French Connection II (**), the disappointing sequel, 9 p.m., FMC.
Saturday, July 30
K-Pax (**), good performance by Kevin Spacey in a terrible film, 8 p.m., ABC.
Mystery! Touching Evil III, 8 p.m., KCET.
Reality Bites (***), Winona Ryder in her prime, 8 p.m., WE.
Alien Resurrection (*), Winona Ryder not in her prime, 8 p.m., AMC.
Sunday, July 31
I Am Sam (*), well-meaning but laughably bad and unbelievable film, 9 p.m., CBS.
Inside the Actors Studio: Angelina Jolie, 9 p.m., BRAVO.
Bill Maher: I’m Swiss, 9 p.m., KCET.
Mystery! Inspector Morse, 9 p.m., KCET.
Monday, August 1
William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 7:30 p.m., IFC.
The Sixth Sense (****), 8 p.m., ABC.
The Closer, 9 p.m., TNT.
To Have and Have Not (****), 9 p.m., TCM.
Tuesday, August 2
Blow (**), with Johnny Depp, 9 p.m., USA.
Situation: Comedy, 9 p.m., BRAVO.
Gorillas in the Mist (***), 8 p.m., OXYGEN.
Heritage: Civilization and the Jews, 9:30 p.m., KCET.
Wednesday, August 3
Black Hawk Down (***), 7:30 p.m., FX.
Sullivan’s Travels (****), 8 p.m., TCM.
Law & Order: Trial by Jury, 9 p.m., NBC.
Brat Camp, 9 p.m., ABC.