Another day, another glossy US import courtesy of Sky’s ongoing spending spree. Their latest purchase is CBS military drama SEAL TEAM.
The Ronseal of TV shows that follows the exploits of a US Navy Sea, Air and Land team as they take on special military operations around the world.
It stars David Boreanaz (longtime TV heartthrob courtesy of his breakout role as Angel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and army sniper turned FBI agent Seeley Booth in long running crime procedural Bones) as team leader Jason Hayes. Fleshing out the rest of the cast are a bevy of familiar faces plucked from supporting roles in hit shows like 24, Mad Men and CSI. They all do a reasonable job of establishing their characters in the pilot. If anything, it’s Boreanaz who gets lost in the ensemble, lacking the tongue-in-cheek charm that made his previous characters so memorable.
To their credit, the SEAL Team producers clearly have lofty ambitions for their new show. Episode 1 kicks off with a therapy session, the reasons for which are revealed through flashbacks to a previous mission gone awry. The message is clear - SEAL Team is as much about emotional drama as it is about running gunfights. Taking its cue from grittier, silver screen depictions of the modern military such as Zero Dark Thirty and Hurt Locker about the physical and psychological costs of war.
Far removed from the entertaining slapstick of CBS shows like Hawaii Five-O and MacGyver - actions here have consequences and the combat scenes, while slickly choreographed and toned down for TV broadcast, are fraught and unflinching.
With seemingly every scene featuring a helicopter, an exotic locale or both, the money is definitely on the screen. The crew behind the scenes are bringing their A-game too, with thrilling raids captured in night vision, first person point-of-view shots and a host of other visual gimmicks on show.
SEAL Team excels during its low key moments, such as a near silent compound raid where the team play a tense game of cat and mouse in a network of makeshift, underground tunnels.
For all those pluses, the show sometimes buckles under the weight of its many clichés. The first ten minutes establish that the lead character is struggling to juggle a dangerous job with a normal family life; introduces an overconfident rookie; showcases a hard as nails military instructor bawling out trainees; amps up the level of jeopardy by acquainting us with another team members heavily pregnant wife; slaps a jingoistic soundtrack on any scene with a gunfight; and confirms that apparently all military women look good enough to moonlight as supermodels.
There’s also a tidal wave of military lingo as well - prepare to pause and Google entire conversations. While it seems churlish to criticise a major TV show for injecting a healthy dose realism into its premise rather than dumbing down, it is undeniably difficult to get fully immersed in the show at times.
SEAL Team comes with a lot of pedigree, enough to warrant 40 minutes of your time. But with its oh-so-serious tone, it may struggle to find a big UK audience unless it lightens up.
- Aired on Sky One, March 22 2018 at 21:00.