Major Jim Tisnewski, until recently an active special forces commando, takes up a Pentagon job as assistant of US Army colonel Eli McNulty. He now must learn to battle the Pentagon way ...
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Major Jim Tisnewski, until recently an active special forces commando, takes up a Pentagon job as assistant of US Army colonel Eli McNulty. He now must learn to battle the Pentagon way against politicians and careerist officers who often oppose what makes operational sense. On occasion, Jim returns to his team or otherwise interacts with his former mates, especially Bobby Wilkerson. Jim also develops a triangle relationship with a CIA agent, his lover, and Pentagon lawyer Samantha 'Sonny' Liston, who has a crush on the hunky officer-gentleman. Written by
What "West Wing" did for the White House, "E-Ring" does for the Pentagon
Into what has become a recent sub-genre of network television -- that of the government operational-situation drama -- NBC's newest entry, "E-Ring," boldly enters the arena.
Sharing the same network as the hugely successful "West Wing," "E-Ring" draws inescapable comparisons to its popular predecessor. Simply put -- what "West Wing" did for the White House, "E-Ring" does for the Pentagon.
Helmed by Hollywood uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, E-Ring is set in the all-powerful outermost ring of the Pentagon's five concentric corridors, where special-ops military responses to the ever-changing world situation are planned and executed. As one might expect, such an open-ended, dynamic setting lends itself to an almost limitless list of scenarios -- ripe for the traditional hour-long TV drama format.
The basis for "E-Ring" centers around a newly-assigned special-ops Army major, Jim Tiznewski, or "J.T.," played superbly by Benjamin Bratt. The series follows Tiznewski from his initial posting to the Pentagon from his former field-operations status as he reports to his new C.O., played by film veteran Dennis Hopper in a canny bit of casting. Along the way, the pair deal with up-to-the-minute intelligence reports from around the globe, determine which are deserving of immediate military attention and then apply the appropriate response.
Bratt and Hopper are joined by a well-placed supporting cast, including Anjenue Ellis as the tough-as-nails Marine Sargent who serves as the logistical guru who holds the Spec-ops planning office together; Kelly Rutherford, who plays the high-ranking civilian counsel acting as a legal liaison between the Pentagon and the White House; Joe Morton, as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Spec-ops who serves as the ranking decision-maker for Bratt and Hopper; and, in another bit of brilliant casting, former "Brat-Packer" Andrew McCarthy as a slippery Congressional liaison (a casting choice not unlike that of Rob Lowe in the early seasons of West Wing).
Although original plans for the series apparently called for Bratt's character to be married, those plans were changed in favor of having "romantic interests." It is hard to imagine that the first of these "romantic interests" could be improved upon -- at least from a plot standpoint -- as his first live-in girlfriend is a covert CIA operative who sometimes "unofficially" hands him key bits of intelligence. This development should remain an interesting sub-plot for many episodes to come.
What impresses me, as a viewer, is that the show has the ring of authenticity. Although I have never served in the military, a friend of mine has -- even spending time in the Pentagon itself -- and reports that, although the show has the usual amount of TV glamorization added to it for dramatic purpose, it has enough accuracy to hit close to the mark. Characters in the show might bend the rules occasionally, but respect for chain-of-command is inherent throughout.
Also impressive is that the show does not take on a level of high-handed moral "preachiness" which might mar a lesser show. The main theme to "E-Ring," if there is one, is that the military takes care of its own -- because others won't -- and this is done with a minimum of political strings attached.
Between the excellent cast, intelligent story lines which are suitably complex without being burdensome and the high-quality Hollywood-like production values undoubtedly insisted upon by Bruckheimer, "E-Ring" has the potential to be a sure-fire hit -- providing NBC gives it enough of a chance for it to find its audience.
Grade: 9, out of 10.
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