Once again, I am quite phenomenally out of date. It turns out that the fantastic new TV show I recently discovered is well into its 3rd season, and has been very well received. Penned by Shawn Ryan (creator of The Shield) and David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross; Wag the Dog) and starring Dennis Haysbert (24\'s President Palmer) and Robert “Agent Doggett/T-1000” Patrick, The Unit tells the tale of the 303rd Logistical Studies Group, a team of covert operations specialists drawn from the ranks of the US Army Rangers and answerable only to the President, who are tasked with performing counter-terrorist operations that the government couldn\'t, wouldn\'t and probably shouldn\'t officially sanction. Consequently, the Unit gets into all sorts of hijinks and scrapes, whether stealing crashed Chinese satellite components from the African bush, protecting the Mexican Drug Minister\'s family or breaking an arms dealer out of a Bulgarian prison.
That\'s not to say that the show is solely based on wham-bam, thank you Colonel, Sir! action. As a counterpoint to the gunfire and explosions, the lives of the Unit members\' families are also looked at, ranging from how their husbands\' missions impact their lives, to the battles fought by army wives themselves. Personally, this is a somewhat unwelcome diversion from the tyre-screeching, grenade-chucking action, coming across as a soap opera-esque web of financial concerns and infidelity. That and I really like gunfights and explosions.
The other major criticism of The Unit that I have heard is that it is far too gung-ho in its politics - the Americans are all honest and upright, though necessarily ruthless in their defence of morality, apple pie and democracy; and all their foes are evil, conniving villains of the highest (lowest?) order. There is even one scene where one of the army wives confronts a seminar of anti-war protesters and faces them down with a barrage of stirring, patriotic (and largely off-camera) arguments. For me, these instances are few and far between. The characters are suitably conflicted, and don\'t just follow the paths of all-American heroes so blindly. Indeed, their role doing the dirty work of combat doesn\'t always show them in a positive light.
My only criticism regarding the main characters is their efficiency - I understand that they\'re supposed to be the best special forces operatives in the world, but that means there\'s no way of presenting them with real opposition without getting a bit silly (“so, the guys have to get a defector out from under the noses of the platoon guarding him.” “Just one platoon? We need to make this a bit tougher.” “Okay, how about an entire regiment and a nuclear submarine? Oh, and the defector\'s being kept in a cage suspended above a shark tank?” “Almost… but they still need more of a challenge…” “It\'s on the moon?” “Perfect, send the director in here”). Likewise, the villains have motives above and beyond “destroy America”, with druglords, arms dealers, pro-unification Koreans, Turkish counter-terrorist officers and traitorous US operatives providing a fair balance to the Arabic hordes that would have been the easy option for the show.
Still, shut off the mind a bit (not too much, otherwise you\'ll miss out on all the nice little touches - such as “Blackthorne” the private security company that tries to recruit Unit members, and is in no way based on a real-world security firm that has been under heavy criticism of late, or the “coffee\'s for closers” notes that reference David Mamet\'s other work) and enjoy!