The newest military TV show makes all the mistakes you'd expect
Any attempt to make a network TV show about Marines feels forced. I mean, c'mon, if you've ever been around Marines for more than 5 minutes, they will already have: cussed 30 times, tried to talk you into day-drinking, and drawn a penis on something nearby. They can be hilariously fun.
But they're in a courtroom for this one, so maybe this one will feel... different — right?
Not so fast. Maybe it's the out-of-regs hair, maybe it's the hacky love storyline, or maybe it's the fact that every Marine is portrayed as so serious — but something about The Code feels off, in the same way, many others before it have...
The Code is basically if you put JAG and Law and Order in a blender with flat soda.
There have been a lot of shows about the military. As soon as one is dropped, another cookie-cutter copy is dropped in its place. It's like one big hair-out-of-regs version of Medusa.
But some have been really good: M*A*S*H, Band of Brothers, JAG (for the first 8 seasons), even the under-appreciated The Unit. More have been not-so-good: The Brave, Valor (which
ran walked alongside The Brave for the entirety of their short run walk), Combat Hospital, Last Resort, the last 2 seasons of JAG, and many more.
Some people enjoy the "not-so-good" ones, and that's fine, too. It would be an awfully boring world if everyone loved the same things.
But the "flyover state" blue collar audience is often overlooked by major networks. There is something irksome about the military shows that are churned out; they're interchangeable and one-dimensional, and therefore come across as pandering. None of it feels real, it feels like someone giving a book report on something you know they didn't read—and you can only stand to stomach someone BS-ing the same classroom about Catch 22 for so long.
Yes, the show has to be dramatized for effect. Yes, some things are going to be "Hollywood" for the sake of a wider audience (at one point a judge literally declares "you will be held in contempt of court" like a Saturday Night Live cold open). I'm sure doctors are sick of the medical procedurals where everyone has lupus, but millions of people love and watch them.
But The Code has some inaccuracies that are particularly grating for a military audience that is worthy of something more dynamic.
One is obvious—get that man a damn haircut.
Also, it's no surprise that the lead is a heartthrob with no discernible personality traits other than being uber handsome. Dude is literally a walking Ken doll. Not exactly an embodiment of the Marines I've met, many of whom are some of the zaniest and insanely crass men ever. They're not a milk-toast copy/pasted trope—they're fully dimensional people with faults and ambitions and shadows and humor. Reducing every Marine to a simple hardass archetype, (or worse, force an overly polished Marine without specificity) isn't just hard to believe—it's boring.
The uniform on the female captain does appear to be short for the military too. And private school. Maybe public school.
You could poke holes in the battle scene of any TV show, but this one is just annoying, you got the fore-grip man, use it! That's like eating cereal with a fork, it works, but you look like you got some milk on your lip.
And lastly, you may be hard pressed to find someone who refers to the Uniform Code of Military Justice as "the code."
Compile all of those, and it's no wonder why it feels "off" to watch. But The Code does have redeeming qualities: it covers the increasingly significant issue of troops with traumatic brain injuries, it translates military-speak to a civilian audience in a seamless fashion, and it sidesteps being "preachy" or political.
So it's not all bad. It's just too familiar. We've seen this all before, and it leaves you with an itchy deja vu feeling.
Is the latest out-of-regs entry onto the head of Medusa. The Code? I guess we'll have to wait and see.
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