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Untitled
The Unit
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Starring   : Dennis Haybert, Tom Ryan, Scott Foley
Initial run : 2006-2009 (4 seasons)

The Unit was a CBS sitcom focusing on the lives of special forces operators as they execute dangerous black operations and direct action operations on the behalf of the Government of the United States, while their wives guard the identity of their husbands, while "possessing secrets of their own."

Produced by skilled writer David Mamet, and inspired by former Delta Forces soldier Eric Haney's book 'Inside The Delta Force', The Unit offers an unforgettable experience. The members of the Unit perform both military special operations and deniable ops i.e. covert ops.  It's the latter that is more featured in the episodes and this means the action takes place in an eclectic variety of locales.  The crisp script writing makes sure there are always unexpected twists and turns in store for the viewer. This translates to several revelations, last minute changes and unexpected developments. The characters appear authentic and the chemistry is commendable. Anyone who was family in the Armed Forces will instantly experience déja vu.

Thoughts of turning to the private military sector with its lucrative contracts and the freedom it offers, not just financially; discrimination against female soldiers, and the fears of the wives about their husbands and children in the military are all explored. In addition, KIAs of members of The Unit take place too, and the fears and the conflicting emotions and questions precipitated by the stress of constantly guarding the secret of the nondescript base and being spouses to men who can never talk to them about their jobs as well as shady individuals with an unexplained interest in the base is all supplemented by good acting.

 


The cast of The Unit
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My reaction to the action scenes are a bit mixed. While the intense gun battles, assassinations and clandestine movements are (except in a few asinine episodes) good, hand-to-hand combat is shockingly poor. Quite a few of them take place in the civilian lives of the spec ops operators, and while a trepidation is created especially since the odds are usually not even, the one-sided attacks are something of a let-down, at least until the 4th season, where strikes are bi-directional, and thus, more realistic.

Taboo topics are not ignored : extra-marital relations, sexual frustration, discrimination against women in the military, the lure of careers in the lucrative private security business. The financial burden on the wives cause them to take up jobs - not all of which are respectable. Certain incidents take place while on the job. The tumultuous relationship between the silent-but-intense Mack, who loves his wife and family, and his wife Tiffy, an attractive blond who being  frustrated at her husband's long absence from her, turns to The Unit's commander Tom Ryan (Robert Patrick) for affection. Patrick's character, a typical Southerner with a pronounced drawl, is an enigmatic personality. His loyalty and camaraderie with the troops are unquestioned, but his flaws begin with the women in his life. In the later seasons, he finds a wife in a British-educated (and accented) government employee, but their conflicting loyalties, to each other and to their employers cause friction in their lives.

The rich nuances to the characters goes a long way in winning over the viewer. Through flashbacks, interjected in a most natural manner, the past of the characters is explored. The history of the African-American Korean War veteran father of Jonas and his experiences in the South of the 50s is just one of several shocking, but riveting moments in the sitcom which ended with its 4th season in 2009.


The fiercely passionate commander's problems with women are connected to his enigmatic past.

Domestic turmoil - the lives of the wives are more interesting and colourful than it sounds.


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The Unit is a terrific sitcom that will satisfy both gung-ho fans and those in for an eclectic experience. While action scenes do dip to sub-standard levels as a result of unrealistic moments, they are rare and are easily outweighed by the riveting plot and the high suspense level. The acting and characterization are the show's finest points, eliciting viewer concern and caring for the characters, while social issues are smoothly integrated into the plot. I'd totally recommend you grab a DVD box or catch the reruns.
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The action scenes are generally good.

The best thing about The Unit is that its members participate in both covert ops and military operations. While covert ops do make occasion for protracted gunfights, it's the episodes with military operations, set in Afghanistan or Iraq that have large-scale gun fights. But that's not to say the covert ops are any less action-packed. With 69 episodes, it's hard to pick as there are so many good episodes, but some episodes are especially memorable. An embassy spying mission in Lebanon; the story with a shocking ending told (or not told) to the journalist son of a Unit KIA about the strange circumstances of his death, the cause of which was until then relegated to a 'training accident'; a covert operation with local participation in Iran, a version of the real life Abu Kamal raid in Syria, except that the hostages  happen to be people the team know (no spoilers) and that the U.S. government does not sanction the mission. Spread over two episodes titled 'Into Hell', that storyline, which makes no secret of the source of its inspiration (even retaining the name) not only makes for brilliant small screen entertainment, but surprisingly also has the virtue of casting Muslims in a positive light.
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