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Fifty years from now, when television historians look back on this era, they will shake their heads in disbelief that a program as masterfully crafted as OVER THERE could not survive more than 13 episodes.
A product of the FX network, OVER THERE followed the lives of a diverse group of American soldiers on their first tour in Iraq. Chronological storytelling was used to perfection as viewers are with them from the moment they board the plane en route to their frightening new reality. We share their horror and shock when innocent civilians are mistakenly struck, when roadside bombs obliterate limbs, and when the best of intentions produce the most dreadful of results. On a more personal level, we see them contend not only with bullets and bombs overseas, but with adultery and family tragedy back home. We see Iraq not through a political lens, but through the eyes of those fighting for survival every single day.
None of the effectiveness of OVER THERE could have been achieved without the right cast. Producers deserve a lot of credit for this ensemble, led by Luke MacFarlane (Pte. Frank "Dim" Dumphy), Erik Palladino (Sgt. Chris "Sgt. Scream" Silas), Keith Robinson (Pte. Avery "Angel" King) and a surprisingly good Kirk "Sticky" Jones (Maurice "Smoke" Williams). Adding a female perspective are Lizette Carrion (Pfc. Esmerelda "Double Wide" Del Rio) and Nicki Aycox (Brenda "Mrs. B" Mitchell). These soldiers are all too complex and human. Dim is a college man shell-shocked by the carnage before him. Angel is a man of strong faith who signed up out of anger. Sgt. Scream drops hints he wants out of the army but has nothing to go back to. The interaction between such distinct personalities is one of the series' strongest assets.
For a show that was with us for so short of a period, OVER THERE certainly did not lack memorable moments. There are ethical dilemmas, such as when the soldiers find a stash of money that one of their own could desperately use back home. There are inspirational times, like when a soldier who lost his leg in an explosion valiantly continues with his life. Cultural barriers, media manipulation, and challenges in training Iraqi soldiers were among the many other topics covered.
One of the biggest criticisms of OVER THERE was that it never took a stance on such a contentious conflict. Few seemed to understand that this was part of its genius. Rather than get locked into a political debate, the show sought merely to present the war as it is. Whether the numbing violence we see is worth it or not is up to us. Indeed both sides of the war could study this program and use it to back up their point of view. You will be entertained regardless of your position.
In the end, OVER THERE was canceled because not enough people appreciated it. It's been said that the public may not have been ready for such a faithful adaptation of an ongoing conflict, with men and women still dying each and every day. That is understandable, but it doesn't necessarily make the loss of such a brilliant piece of work any easier to take.
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