Tuesday, November 08, 2005

TV: Over There

Bad news from the fake warfront: according to Tim Goodman, Over There, FX's brilliant series about the war in Iraq, will not be coming back for a second season.

I don't think I've written about Over There, other than in passing. I know I didn't post a review when it first premiered because I somehow screwed up and didn't TiVo that debut episode. I was behind right from day one, which is a shame, because, as I discovered while playing catch-up, it was a truly great show.

It was the first American TV show ever based on an ongoing war, which at times made it tough to watch, but all the more essential. It wasn't about attacking any one political party or worldview; it exposed the brutality, sadness, stupidity and insanity inherent in any war, as most great war fiction does. Sometimes it did so through horrific images, such as the Iraqi soldier whose legs keep running after everything above his waist is blown up (eerily reminiscent of a moment in the film version of Catch-22). Mostly it did so through the characters, who swiftly transcended their stock cliche origins (farm boy, smart-ass, gruff sergeant who cares) and became vital, compelling, and unique. The show went to dark and unexpected places -- the soldier you expect to become the leader of the other men gets his leg blown off at the end of the very first episode, spinning his storyline into one of depression, denial, and grueling rehabilitation.

Over There was smart, funny, bold, and haunting. It was the best new show of the year on any network -- even including HBO's Rome. But it wasn't on HBO, it was on FX, which is probably why I'm writing its eulogy rather than announcing its renewal. FX has crafted some fantastic programming over the past few years -- it's got a track record nearly equal to HBO's. And this was one of FX's very best. But on standard cable (as opposed to subscriber channels like HBO), ratings matter, and Over There just couldn't muster enough viewers for FX to keep it around.

If you were one of the people who wasn't watching it, at least check out the DVD whenever it may come out. Over There was something special.

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