| Oh, Steven Bochco. (Jesus, why the heck does our word processor's spellcheck recognize the word "Bochco"? And why does it not recognize the word "spellcheck"?) Steven, you purveyor of grit, you bringer of Doogie, you promoter of Harry Hamlin's impossibly bad career, you police-luvin', lawyer-huggin' purveyor of pap. Much like the ambulance-chasing journalist who races to write the first-to-market biography of Runaway Bride Jennifer Whatshername, how could we expect anyone other than Bochco to executive produce the first drama about the current, potentially endlessly ongoing Iraq war?
Over There is its name, and it ain't exactly M*A*S*H, meaning a nation will not be turning its lonely eyes to flush synchronously during Over There's series finale, which may be kind of soon. Which is not to say that Over There is horrible, because it's not. Nor is it exactly racist, or overblown, or oversimplified. It's just kind of...nothing. And for a show on FX, a network whose original programming we often applaud, that's disappointing.
In Over There, Bochco (dammit, spellcheck, what the hell?) apparently sought to be as absolutely apolitical as he could possibly be. Again, from the network that can be as politically incorrect as anything on pay cable, this is vastly disappointing. Because without any hint of the politics that surround the Iraq war, this is pretty much just A Really Sandy Battle. You rely on your buddy, your buddy relies on you, blah blah blah, it's generic wartime baloney where Soldiers Don't Know Who To Trust and People Make Sacrifices For Their Unit and A Stray Bullet Teaches Everyone A Very Special Lesson.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with what's actually onscreen: the acting is fine, the production values are good, the booms and bangs seem sufficiently menacing. But by all accounts (well, most accounts...the Bush Administration would have you believe its Iraq-bound soldiers sing the national anthem all day long) U.S. troops in Iraq do exist in a political context, many of them do have sincere reservations about America's participation or at least their own extended tours of duty, and there is a creeping sense, every damn day, that this was a terrible, terrible political decision by Washington chickenhawks. To ignore this stuff---to make generic what could otherwise be made specific---turns Over There into a John Wayne movie, where Americans are shown to be brave, and therefore America's "enemies" are by implication evil.
It's been quite a while since Bochco created a hit (NYPD Blue in 1993, to be exact), and since then his turkeys are myriad and gobbling. Going forward in time since '93, we're looking at The Byrds Of Paradise, Murder One, Public Morals, Brooklyn South, Total Security, City Of Angels, Philly, NYPD 2069 and (saving the best for last) Blind Justice, and that's to say nothing of Cop Rock and Capitol Critters. This guy's batting average is worse than Richie Brockelman: Private Eye (a 1978 Bochco original). Certainly, there are those who will watch Over There (hello, red states!) and feel satisfied and justified in supporting military intervention "wherever the U.S. goddamn feels like it!" And in that regard, FX's decision to buy the series may be more cynical than we first thought.
In truth, though, we think this is just more typical Bochco pap, it'll last a year studiously avoiding making the kinds of political statements that made M*A*S*H worth watching, and then take its place alongside Hooperman in the Bochco Hall of Fame.