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"Tour of Duty" was one of the few truly great TV series ever produced. The
show has so many good qualities, it is hard to know where to begin. First
off, the writing is almost always top-drawer. Plots are often completely
unpredictable, regular characters die, an intelligent audience is assumed.
Of the fifty-eight episodes filmed, there may be 2 or 3 that are not of the
As for acting, it couldn't be better. All roles are perfectly cast and the mostly superior acting talents involved bring tremendous depth to their textured characters. These people all seem so real. It is, in fact, surprising how few of these cast members have been heard from again. Terence Knox, Stephen Caffrey, Miguel Nunez, Tony Becker, Stan Foster, John Dye, Carl Weathers, Lee Majors and others are simply unforgettable. The viewer follows them through some of the most harrowing and moving plot developments ever conceived for the TV medium. When, in the end, the "Tour" is over, there is an almost overwhelming sense of sadness and loss at seeing these marvelous characters depart. This series concentrates on the relationships that form between men in the military/combat environment. The point is made several times that these people have learned to care about each other and that this bond is what gives meaning to their mission.
A brilliant, wrenching credit to the power of television. "Tour of Duty" should be seen by all.
I am a Sergeant in the Army with 17 years of experience in the National Guard and on active duty, I am also a Desert Storm veteran (and cotton picking proud of it!). I usually get a really hearty laugh when I watch tv shows and films with a military theme because they are so unrealistic and it just isn't like that in real life. I used to love to watch Tour Of Duty, however, because it was realistic and for a change it told the story like it really was. It dealt realistically with the real issues that affected soldiers in the Vietnam war, the drug addiction, the racism, the desertions, the meddling by the politicians, the incompetence of many of the top brass. So often watching this show would make me angry because it was so frightning and so true. Above all, it showed the way the people back home were so cruel to the veterans and spit on them and called them baby killers. Terence Knox and the other cast members all did an amazing job and made this a very special show that touched a lot of people. I am sure that many Vietnam vets who watched this show cried because it brought back so many sad memories for them. We owe these special men a long-overdue debt of thanks. Tour Of Duty reminds us of their sacrifice and that is what made it such a great show.
Where to begin? This is one of the greatest tv series ever made.
It has everything. Brotherhood, strife, politics, morality and ethics, courage, ambiguity, everything. You have to see this movie as part of the time it was made. In 1987, there was no real visual example of what the war in Vietnam was really all about. Vietnam during the seventies and sixties was something people protested against. It was the longest war the United States had ever fought. It split a nation, between people who wanted to make a stand against communism and for conservatism, and people who couldn't see how a war more than a thousand miles away could possibly affect the USA. The seventies was also an era during which many former colonies (like Vietnam) were trying to become independent, like Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia/Southwest Africa. During the eighties, there was a largely Republican leaning movement of movies tangentially about Vietnam (First Blood, about a vietnam veteran, but set in Colorado, not Vietnam), Chuck Norris' movies, even Magnum PI with Tom Selleck (1980 onwards) and later Miami Vice. The Vietnam theme was "in", but no real movies/series set in Vietnam or dealing with the real day-to-day of ordinary soldiers had been made. And then there was Tour Of Duty. Tour of Duty set out to describe the daily grind of a platoon of the 199th Light Infantry. This series is great. Yes, it may reflect earlier series like the WWII series "Combat", but it is still unique. Unlike most series in the eighties, it isn't afraid of featuring Black and Hispanic actors in major, leading roles - Stan Foster, Miguel Nunez and Ramon Franco, mainly. In no small measure reflecting that the Vietnam War was the first war during which the US military was fully integrated/desegregated. Meanwhile, the storylines are great. Most deal with the daily strain of patrols, the interaction with the Vietnamese population, and there is even a love interest thrown in, in the form of female reporter Alex Devlin (Kim Delaney, based on the real-life reporter and war casualty Dicky Chapelle). Lots of themes are explored, from the stresses of combat, to the attitude to the war, to the situation of the people of Vietnam, the psychological damage (as through psychiatrist Betsy Brantley), etc. The second part of the series has the squad enlisted as Special Forces, under Colonel Brewster (Carl Weathers), highlighting the strains and tensions between Special Forces and regular army on the one side and the CIA (Patrick Kilpatrick as Duke Fontaine) on the other. This is a great series, see it if you can.
This series could have been titled COMBAT! THE NEXT GENERATION, and lived
to that status. Zeke Anderson was a next-generation Chip Saunders and
Goldman a next-generation Gil Hanley. In fact, I'm surprised and
disappointed that the producers didn't have Rick Jason do a guest
as COLONEL Gil Hanley (and it's too bad Vic Morrow was no longer alive to
show up as Sergeant Major Chip Saunders)!
I think one of the reasons this series wasn't as popular on its original run as it is in syndication today is precisely because it was essentially COMBAT! with M-16s and Hueys: a lot of people in the 1980s were still of the mindset that those who fought in Vietnam were all baby killers; they couldn't accept the simple fact that the Myron Goldmans, Zeke Andersons, Alberto Ruizes, Danny Percells, Marcus Taylors, Scott Bakers and Marvin Johnsons of Vietnam, 1967 were the same ordinary American boys as the Gil Hanleys, Chip Saunderses, Cajes, Littlejohns, Braddocks and Kirbys of France, 1944, doing their best in an ugly situation that was not of their making.
TOUR OF DUTY was one of my all-time favorite series, right along with another contemporary New World Television production also set 20 years in the past, THE WONDER YEARS; . I've always seen these two series as two sides of the same coin, i.e. the battlefront and home front of the Vietnam War. It's fitting that in the TOD episode "Soldiers" (where three of the cast regulars go to Hawaii for R&R), Olivia d'Abo of THE WONDER YEARS had a guest appearance essentially playing the same character.
[For the record, I did not go to Vietnam; I was still an ROTC cadet when the war ended. That does mean, however, that I got my share of the "baby killer" epithets and spitting upon my uniform during that era! ]
Having said all that, the series was not without flaws. The first flaw was the entire 2nd season with the introduction of the female love interests for Anderson and Goldman, coincident with the start of the competing ABC series CHINA BEACH. This is a classic example of the original trying to imitate the imitator and nearly ruining itself in the process. (Anyone remember Coke vs Pepsi, New Coke and the return to Coke Classic?) My second major criticism is that although this was still one of my all-time favorite series, there's no denying that elements of just about every Vietnam War theatrical movie of that era found their way into episodes of TOUR OF DUTY; the finale of the first season was essentially a condensed, cleaned up for network TV version of HAMBURGER HILL. There were so many cases of this that, at times, I felt the series should have been titled APOCALYPSE OF THE FULL METAL HAMBURGER PLATOON AT FIREBASE GLORIA! ;-)
Tour of Duty is one of the best series I have ever seen.
It has great performances from the entire cast, a wonderfull human story
about an inhuman war and the story-telling is perfectly paced.
Sadly, it didn't get the ratings it deserved back in the states, though it was a big hit over here (and several other countries, I've learned). If you get the chance, watch it (like I'm doing now as it's being re-run on SBS-6). I doubt you'll be disappointed.
TOUR OF DUTY, like Oliver Stone's PLATOON only a year before,
shows the emotional, social, and mental sides of the Vietnam War. In oppose to those larger than life war shows and movies (including THE A-TEAM or RAMBO II), the purpose of TOUR OF DUTY is to display how the young American troops felt and experience regarding the horrors of war, and they do a fine job at that. Terrance Knox and Stephen
Caffrey are fine as the leaders the platoon in subject.
Being a vet from the Viet Nam conflict era, I can't help but watch each episode over and over. This is the most realistic show on t.v.. When "COMBAT" came on in the 60s, My Dad , a WWII vet, said it was the most realistic WWII show he had ever seen. It also followed the main characters through tough battles. TOUR OF DUTY goes beyond "combat" probably because of the lack of strict censorship in the 80s compared to the 60s. I just have to say, the cast, the writing , the directing, and the filming of TOUR OF DUTY, marks the epidomy of excellence in television. Thanks goes out to "TBS" for bringing this great show back. When I get off of work at 2:00p.m., it gives me a chance to get home, get relaxed and settle in for the best hour on t.v.
I ran into STEPHEN CAFFERY outside GRAND RAPIDS MICHIGAN last year. I Never said anything to him. He got in a truck and drove off with a lawn mower. I was sort of shocked. I had run across KIRSTEN DUNST the same way, my first reaction is to keep walking in my own direction with the recognition "oh a celebrity". I am not a autograph hound by any stretch. This series was designed by producers to be even keeled in it's delivery. TOUR OF DUTY was a show which to it's credit became better with each season. The show was also catalyst for a resurgence in awarness of VIETNAM and america coming to grips with the aftermath of the snubbing of the vets and the social issues which arose from the war and it's aftermath of shame. TOUR OF DUTY did not portray VIETNAM as a shameful war or the verts. It portrayed the bombastic policies of the "police action" train of thought in military doctrine. The series had a quality to it in deliever the same way COMBAT did back in the 1960's. A well produced show which went on to uplift the vietnam vet as a hero instead of a villain, TOUR OF DUTY was one of the final media franchises to explore vietnam in the wake of movie fare such as PLATOON.
WOW! I have been watching Tour of Duty for awhile. the series is
awesome, realistic, and the actors are great.
The soldiers in tour of duty are from all backgrounds: the rich,
black, white, dove, hawk, orphaned, etc. The actors (Knox, Caffrey,
Franco, Nunez, Foster, Dye etc.) all did an excellent job portraying
characters. It is a shame that they never were given bigger roles.
Great series. Hope the actors show up on more movies and shows.
"Tour Of Duty" is quite frankly one of my most favorite TV series of all
time, and for good reason too. Aside from being highly entertaining, the
show made attempts to show what life was like for soldiers during the
Vietnam war. In spite of prime time network regulations, the stories were
gritty and unglamorous, and rarely were there any feel-good endings to
It's a shame that many of the talented actors who made up the "Tour Of Duty" cast (with the exception of John Dye and Kim Delaney) aren't seen as often on TV anymore. I hope that there's a slim chance of a reunion movie being made, given the strong following this show developed over the years.
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