Anything but military dramas

SEAL Team stars Daniel Gillies (top left) and David Boreanaz, while The Brave stars Mike Vogel (above left).
SEAL Team stars Daniel Gillies (above left) and David Boreanaz, while The Brave stars Mike Vogel.PHOTOS: SONY PICTURES, HBO ASIA
SEAL Team stars Daniel Gillies (top left) and David Boreanaz, while The Brave stars Mike Vogel (above left).
SEAL Team stars Daniel Gillies and David Boreanaz, while The Brave stars Mike Vogel (above left).PHOTOS: SONY PICTURES, HBO ASIA

The creators of SEAL Team and The Brave say their productions are more like character-driven shows

One of the big trends on American television this year is the rash of new military dramas - something observers believe is to cater to a perceived right swing in American politics.

But as some of these shows were introduced to television critics in Beverly Hills earlier this year, their casts and creators insisted they had no political agenda.

The newest series is SEAL Team, which debuts today on AXN (9.45pm on Singtel TV Channel 304 and StarHub TV Channel 511).

It comes on the heels of other new military shows such as The Brave (HBO on StarHub Go and HBO On Demand, StarHub TV Channel 602) and The Long Road Home (Sundays at 10pm on National Geographic Channel, StarHub TV Channel 411 and Singtel TV Channel 201).

When SEAL Team's creators are asked why there seems to be a pro-military mood in the United States and if their show might benefit from it, executive producer Benjamin Cavell makes a counterintuitive claim about his show, the story of an elite team of Navy Seals.

"I don't think our show is about the military," he says. "I think it's about the people who do this work rather than about the work itself, in some way."

He adds: "We want to be true to the people we know who do this for a living and, frankly, the things that they do transcend politics. They don't look at the results of elections and decide whether they want to remain in the military or go on following the orders to do the missions that they get sent on.

  • WATCH IT

  • SEAL TEAM 

    Premieres today at 9.45pm on AXN (Singtel TV Channel 304 and StarHub TV Channel 511)

  • THE BRAVE 

    There will be an encore telecast of the first nine episodes on Cinemax (StarHub TV Channel 611) every Tuesday from next Tuesday.

    Episode 1 will play at 9pm on Tuesday and subsequent episodes will play with two episodes back-to-back the following Tuesdays at 8.15pm and 9pm respectively.

    The 10th episode will premiere on Jan 2.

    All premiered episodes will stream on HBO on StarHub Go and HBO On Demand (StarHub TV Channel 602).

"They do that work no matter who's in the White House and whether they voted for that person."

SEAL Team's leading man David Boreanaz also argues for the non-military aspects of the show, which tracks the personal and professional lives of a group of Navy Seals carrying out covert operations all over the world.

"I consider it a workplace show," says the 48-year-old, who starred in the crime procedural Bones (2005 to 2017).

"For me, what's interesting is the character and how he deals with that (workplace) and, when he comes home, how he deals with his inner turmoil and personal life." However, he acknowledges that these characters have unique jobs that involve "fighting for our freedom".

Another producer, Sarah Timberman, says SEAL Team is not a jingoistic show, but rather about "honour and integrity and a shared sense of purpose and common humanity".

When a critic counters that the series seems to have clear patriotic, us-versus-them overtones - with storylines about Seals rescuing Americans from foreign terrorists, for instance, and even an American flag in the show's logo - Boreanaz says that is merely the dramatic backdrop.

"And that leads to an amazing understanding of what these characters go through. It's a character-driven show."

Taking a similar stance was the creative team behind The Brave, another show about an elite unit of American soldiers engaged in covert operations abroad, starring Mike Vogel and Anne Heche (an encore telecast of the first nine episodes airs on Cinemax starting on Tuesday on StarHub TV Channel 611).

Executive producer Dean Georgaris says it is, above all, "a workplace drama and an undercover-mission show".

He, too, downplays the militaristic and jingoistic overtones, instead emphasising the series' procedural elements and its "mission-of-the-week" approach, which he says was inspired by the long-running medical drama ER (1994 to 2009).

"We do not become a serialised show because we're based in reality. The truth is, a team like this doesn't get to go on some vengeance hunt. They don't go rogue. These men and women go on and do other missions.

"We're focused on trying to do the best job with our approach, which is an immersive approach - we don't cut away to characters at home."

Another way The Brave departs from the military-show template is by featuring a diverse cast, including a Muslim character who is a member of the team.

This is true to life, according to Georgaris, who says such teams are often "populated with men and women of different religions and backgrounds".

The show admits to having a pro-military message, however.

Echoing Boreanaz, Vogel, the 38-year-old star of Under The Dome (2013 to 2015), says these soldiers are clearly heroes.

Paraphrasing a famous quote, he says Americans enjoy "freedom of opinion and thought and speech" because "rough men and women stand ready to do violence on our behalf and protect that right".

"So, for me, to have the ability to step into that and, in some tiny way, contribute to their real-life heroics, is an honour and I'm humbled by it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2017, with the headline 'Anything but military dramas'. Print Edition | Subscribe