The press tour panel for FOX’s “Enlisted” seemed to, consciously or unconsciously, reflect the intended tone of the show: silly, then serious. Stars Geoff Stults (Pete Hill), Chris Lowell (Derrick Hill) and Parker Young (Randy Hill) traded barbs at such rapid speed it was hard to make out what was being said, much less who said what. Given that they’re playing brothers, it seemed that connection carried over to real life.
It came as no surprise, then, that co-creator Kevin Biegel was drawing on real life to create the show. “[This is] pretty autobiographical. I’ve got two younger brothers, and after ‘Cougartown,’ hold for applause… Wait, these are TV critics. I wanted to do something intensely personal. [My bond with my brothers has been] the longest, best relationship in my life. We’re still kind of locked into that 16-year-old mentality. And I have a lot of family and friends in the military.”
Though the cast joked about the quality of the props, with Lowell saying a tank was “basically a parade float from ‘Animal House,” Stuts was happy to resume joshing with his on-screen siblings. “The root of the show is about brothers, and they cast me to be the most handsome…”
When the trio began jokingly bickering about who was more handsome, co-star Angelique Cabral (Jill Perez) sighed, “You guys are all handsome.”
Still, after screening a goofy promo for the show, Biegel was quick to assure the audience that “it’s really important to me to make sure the show is never appearing mocking or disrespectful. Every time you see military, it’s [some] ‘Call of Duty’ [roughneck] or someone so wrecked by PTSD they can’t function. But there’s a great swath of people who… like their jobs and have fun. We wanted to set a show in this world, and we wanted to show some misfits. The reality of what these guys’ jobs is is what this show is totally about.”
After this serious moment, questioning flipped back to a funny moment in the pilot, in which the name “Bradley Cooper” is used in a training exercise. “We use the name as a rhythm thing. It’s like a mantra,” Stuts said.
Biegel mentioned that after taping the pilot, he heard a radio interview with the actor about “how much he wanted to be a soldier,” which had him wondering whether to ask him to do a cameo, then dismissing the idea.
Keith David (Donald Cody) talked briefly about how he had a role in the classic military movie “Platoon” influenced him, which is not very much. “Every situation is not the same… we can talk about how real or not those scenes in ‘Platoon’ are… every once in a while you have some fun. Equally important to show how difficult it is to be deployed.”
David talked about how his character becomes a father figure to the three brothers, adding that he dedicates any military role to his stepfather, who served in WWII. “When I get that responsibility, I take it seriously.”
Then, it was time for some joking around about how Young showed up “naked at three in the morning” at one of his co-stars’ homes.
The tone then flopped back to a serious issue. “Even in the pilot itself, there’s going to be heavier things that the show deals with because it has to,” Biegel said. “The show is going to go there.” The panel then addressed how Stuts’ character goes to Iraq and returns a different man. “They’re all going to play comedy and drama.”
“Except me,” Lowell joked. “I signed up for comedy, I will not do drama.”
Still, Biegel wanted to be clear “Enlisted” was not going to be “on a soapbox.” “It’s a workplace comedy, just a different kind of workplace. Get rid of those kid gloves; you can’t tell stories about soldiers [with them]. We can start telling these stories. PTSD will be covered.”
Next the panel joked around about the show’s Friday at 9:30 p.m. timeslot (“Our competition is ‘Bluebloods’ and an episode of ‘Chopped’? Biegel said. ‘I’ll take that… I think Fox has done us a great service. I’d be foolish to be bummed about being on any time.”
Biegel then discussed how the show will be “extra sensitive” to military personnel, and he plans to offer a competition for service men to point out where the show has “screwed up” as well as include a shout out to overseas units at the end of each show. “A joke’s a joke. We don’t want to rub anyone the wrong way.” Still, the show won’t be working with the Army officially, in part because of the constraints that would result.
Lowell joked about the fact the three brothers will be going to boot camp on Monday (“Any military that would have us would be quickly overthrown”) and there were some sober recollections from Stuts of former co-star Michael Clarke Duncan. Luckily, the panel seemed to be able to bounce back and forth between light moments and poignant ones fluidly. Now viewers will get to decide if the show is as successful when the show premieres Nov. 8 at 9:30 p.m.