Lighten Up on ‘Enlisted:’ Even the Military Likes to Laugh


An exciting Friday night while my husband is away for Army training added up to Chinese food and surfing Facebook. A friend posted  a reminder that the new Fox show “Enlisted” would premiere in just a few minutes.

With nothing better to do, I abandoned my takeout and headed to my TV.

From the opening scene where the Hill brothers welcome home their oldest, I could not stop laughing. It was the type of laugh you have with a friend over an inside joke.

Anyone who has ever served in the military or had more than a cursory interaction with servicemembers know things can get pretty silly and ridiculous at any point during the day.

Just like any other professional setting, my husband comes home with some pretty funny stories after a day in the office…never mind what I hear about when he’s out in the field or deployed.

It came as a surprise to me when I saw so many people saying what an insult the show was to our servicemen and women. I saw many comments on Twitter and Facebook about how the characters in the show portrayed service members as inept buffoons.

There was also much concern about the show being taken too literally by civilians and confusing them into thinking this is the level of professionalism the military exudes at all times.

I was shocked to say the least when I saw the majority of this type of criticism coming from military members or their family members.

There were several issues throughout the show, including none of the soldiers ever wearing patrol caps outside and the American flag dragging on the ground (OUCH), but Fox admitted before the show even started that there were going to be mistakes and encouraged viewers to point out the mistakes so they can correct them in future tapings.

Also there were several stereotypes that I cringed at a bit including the female platoon sergeant who seemed to be trying too hard to prove herself.

There have been so many shows that have taken a humorous look at an otherwise serious occupation–“Scrubs” quickly comes to mind.

I don’t recall anyone arguing that those outside of the medical field would assume that doctors and nurses actually behaved like the characters on the show did. While M*A*S*H had political overtones, it still used humor and absurdity to remind viewers that service members are still human, even in the middle of a war.

“Enlisted” highlighted several redeeming themes of military life. The sense of camaraderie and family is second to none in the military. Having a husband who has worked both in the civilian world and served actively, I can tell you that the friendships he has fostered with his fellow soldiers is on a different level than those friendships he’s made at work or through civilian channels. The same can be said for those friendships that I have had with other military spouses.

That’s not to say these civilian friendships are subpar, but my husband has quite literally trusted his military friends with his life at times. That’s a level of trust most people never need to experience.

The show also made it a point that success doesn’t always come by putting yourself first but rather working together to achieve a goal. A noble lesson that sometimes is forgotten no matter if you’re a civilian or a military member.

In the almost nine years that I’ve been exposed to the Army, I’ve learned the military is not what the war movies make it out to be. There’s a lot less jumping out of airplanes and war games and more paperwork and in-office time like that you would find in a civilian career.

And just like civilians, servicemembers like to have fun. People need to remember it’s a comedy. It’s supposed to have absurd characters and situations. The writers are going to take liberties to make the plot flow and nail down the laugh.

With the upsetting news of pension reductions and post-war issues, I’m excited that there is a show out there willing to take a light-hearted look at the military and remind everyone that service members are human too and they like to laugh even amongst the doom and gloom.

Jennifer writes Also Known As…the Wife, a blog focusing on marriage and parenting.  She and her husband, an Army Reservist, have been married for five years and are raising their two children in New Jersey.

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  • Jodi

    I appreciate the humor and laughing. I can understand not getting some minor things with the uniform, and dress and appearance. But the blatant things they get wrong– facial hair, weight, etc is kind of insulting. There are things to laugh at, but at least make them look like they meet standards.

  • Tim

    This is great. I haven’t seen the show …..yet but its all true. Ass a service member i can say i have trusted friend with my life and had theirs trusted with me and at the same time have made smart ass comments to each other that would probably offend must of the civilian population.

  • Cathy

    I’ve found a real lack of a sense of humor among military members, especially higher ranking people. Even prior military who are now civilians are so rigid and uptight. Geez, people, life is too short. Relax and enjoy.

    The pictures of our post leadership all show such grim faces – except everyone says they look like they are hanging on tight to some loose bowels.

    • jojo613

      As someone who is married to a higher ranking individual, it’s because it’s very, very, very, very easy to get fired for offending people. At home, you can cut loose have a sense of humor, but in front of military personnel– nope. It’s sad that it has come to this, but it really has. It’s to the point where my husband will not be on friendly terms with his female troops, because he is so nervous about saying something that will cause him to get fired. It’s the political environment and the system of retribution.

  • Guest

    I don’t recall anyone arguing that those outside of the medical field would assume that doctors and nurses actually behaved like the characters on the show did. While M*A*S*H had political overtones, it still used humor and absurdity to remind viewers that service members are still human, even in the middle of a war.

    Read more:

    Though I have not seen, or even heard of this show you are talking about, the same can be said for Gomer Pyle USMC, that was absurd as you can get, or how about Hogans Heros, heck even Army Wives is far fetched and unrealistic. People today waste too much time and energy worrying about someone offending them, whether it’s their job, race, clothes, car, house, the part of the country they live in, accent, the list goes on and on. There are always going to be misconception, stereotypes, etc. We all need to light up and learn to laugh again. If we can’t laugh at ourselves we are missing something, the fact we are all in this life together and we are all human.

  • John

    Just enjoy it for what it is, entertainment. If you don’t like it, change the channel.

  • Jennifer S

    I have to say the first episode to the second one showed stark improvements. Uniforms looked straightened up, covers were being worn outdoors, and a few other things my husband noticed that I didn’t. So we were happy to see that. Growing up an Air Force brat, & then becoming an Army wife I knew that this show wasn’t an accurate depiction of how military units are, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t an accurate depiction of police officers/detectives, and nor was Scrubs accurate either. If we’re going to accept those shows, despite their serious inaccuracies, we should do the same for Enlisted. Especially BC they’re showing how families cope when their service member is away. Which made me happy to see, BC a lot of people have no idea what that really looks like.

  • sabrinacking

    Because of this article and other hype, Big grumpy J and I sat down and watched all 3 episodes on On Demand this weekend…we laughed…hard, multiple times. And in this house, we take all the laughs we can get. Any NCO who hasn’t had a Randy (Big J has one right now that we both looked at each other the firs time that character came on, and said the kid’s name LOL), anyone who has deployed multiple times and not felt like Pete….Anyone who has lead an FRG and not felt like you were having to give mole people briefings to calm people down…well, hey…we thought it was funny, and in so many satirical ways: spot on. And we appreciate it. Like my Dad appreciated M.A.S.H. because in this life, you have to laugh at yourself to survive.