Wednesday, August 13, 2008

TV EYE: Runaway Sons of the Nuclear A-Bomb

The Wire, created by David Simon and ably abetted by Ed Burns, may have been the most-praised, least-seen cable series ever. Their follow-up, Generation Kill (HBO, Sundays, 9:00), adapted from reporter Evan Wrights’ original Rolling Stone 3 part-article and subsequent book, is a no-holds-barred, manically anecdotal look at the Iraq War, that much like The Wire, traffics in multiple-characters, quasi-theatrical slang-talk, and allows an overwhelming (and often dark and bitter) sense of fatalistic irony to function as the core of what is essentially a sweeping critique of a war program and it’s day-to-day actions. The Marines at the center of this low-key, shambling, virtual road movie, are a mix of smart aleck tough guys, ironic wise guys, sarcastic hip guys, and funny-in-spite-of-themselves psycho warriors. Simon and Burns don’t make distinguishing any of the players an easy thing, and two or three episodes go by before you can finger a few of the pivotal players like Corporal Ray Person (James Ransome) a motor-mouthed survivor intent of riffing his way through the battleground, Sergeant Brad “Iceman” Colbert (Alexander Skarsgard), the one soldier with brains, heart, and courage, the writer (Lee Tergesen) alternately repelled and fascinated by what he observes-an obvious audience surrogate, and the Lieutenant Colonel known as “The Godfather” (Chance Kelly), a whisper-for-a-scream battalion leader who is primed and ready for a true tactical fight. Mix in references to video games, pop songs group sung by off-key soldiers, a J. Lo death rumor, rampant homophobia, and a non-ending barrage of twisted ball busting and you get the picture. Generation Kill is a comic nightmare ride, grim, contradictory, and hard-ass funny, outstandingly horrifying.

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