The time has come again. The summer sun has set. The days grow colder and the nights grow longer and we fill those nights with new fall TV. As happens every autumn, the five major networks have unleashed a flurry of new programs to entertain us into these dark, frigid winter months and beyond. So many choices. So much risk! How will you know what to watch? That’s where I come in. I watch every new fall pilot episode so that you don’t have to. I take one for the team, so you can watch the… screen(m). It’s time for…
THE PILOT PROJECT (Fall 2017 Edition)
The Brave (Mondays on NBC)/SEAL Team (Wednesdays on CBS)
This is going to be a bit of an unorthodox installment of The Pilot Project. Unlike past entries, this time I’m reviewing two pilots at once, because I literally cannot imagine reviewing each of them separately. The two shows are NBC’s The Brave and CBS’ SEAL Team, and they share so many similarities that I can’t speak about one without speaking about the other.
The Brave follows an elite special forces unit, led by Captain Adam Dalton (Mike Vogel). His team receives its orders from Patricia Campbell (Anne Heche), the Deputy Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Campbell and her intelligence analysts identify threats and Dalton and his unit take them out.
SEAL Team follows an elite group of Navy SEALs, led by Senior Chief Petty Officer Jason Hayes (David Boreanaz). His team receives its orders from CIA analyst Mandy Ellis (Jessica Paré). Ellis and the CIA identify threats and Hayes and his unit take them out.
It may seem like I’m oversimplifying this, and I kind of am, but I’m also kind of not. These shows share a lot of the same DNA. They’re both military procedural dramas, with lots of guns, uniforms, screens, and drones. Both units feature one token female member. In fact, the plots of both pilot episodes feature a conflict between taking out a high-level terrorist target and rescuing a blonde, American female hostage. I’m not exaggerating. Both episodes feature that exact plot. It’s actually kind of ridiculous how much these two pilots have in common.
And yet, the two shows feel nothing alike. I know that that sounds weird considering how I’ve stressed their similarities up until this point, but it’s true. Despite everything that these two shows have in common, they feel different.
One of the biggest things that sets these two shows apart is the characters. While each features the requisite military stereotypes, I felt that SEAL Team did a much better job in distinguishing its characters and making them feel like real people. One of the aspects of SEAL Team that I like is that there is a focus on the effect that this line of work has on these characters and the people in their life. Boreanaz’ character Hayes is often shown in mandated therapy sessions, where his therapist delves into the trauma that he experiences on his missions. The Brave, on the other hand, seems to be focused almost exclusively on the weekly mission. There’s a chance that this will change in future episodes, but I haven’t seen future episodes.
SEAL Team is actually more interesting than I initially gave it credit for. I went in expecting it to just be a “generic military procedural”, but the writer’s willingness to explore PTSD gives me hope. The Brave, unfortunately, is the “generic military procedural” that I was expecting SEAL Team to be. Neither show is awful, and people who enjoy this sort of thing will probably find stuff to like in both, but for the sake of the Pilot Project, I’m only going to recommend one. Unless you’re a dad. These are both dad shows, so if you’re a dad, then by all means, watch them both. I know you’re going to anyways.
The Brave Recommendation: Skip It
SEAL Team Recommendation: Try It