This article previously appeared on Crossfader.
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
Since its inception in early 1962, the Navy SEAL teams in the United States military have been used over and over again in popular culture. People learn about their rigorous training and the special, classified operations they perform mostly through books, movies, and television shows. Most recently, the late SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s autobiography, AMERICAN SNIPER, and Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation starring Bradley Cooper gained huge popularity. It makes sense that a struggling network like CBS would make a show about SEAL teams and their missions. SEAL TEAM could have been a terrific character study, looking at the psychology behind the men who join and the choices they have to make regularly. However, the pilot of SEAL TEAM makes it clear that it wants to focus on a stale, action-packed plot rather than its more interesting characters.
The SEAL team led by Jason Hayes (David Boreanaz of BONES fame) gets called in to capture a high-ranking ISIL officer, with Clay Spencer—called a “strap” for his lower ranking—assisting them. Spencer (played by Max Thieriot) is the most intriguing of the team by far: his dad was in the Army before him and published a book that revealed too much about classified conflicts. Hence, Hayes and the rest of his squad look down on Spencer and don’t trust him as they do each other. It is an interesting backstory for a supporting cast member that should be perused more, but sadly isn’t. The rest of the team is interchangeable at best; when the most memorable side character is a bomb-sniffing dog, you know you have a problem.
This show is about as exciting as watching grass grow
The biggest problem with SEAL TEAM, however, isn’t its lack of emphasis on its characters. It isn’t that it is generic and ultimately predictable. The issue doesn’t even have to do with the title of the series, because its blunt and basic name fits the blunt and basic nature of the show itself. No, the real nuisance with SEAL TEAM is that the series does not have any emotional depth to it whatsoever. Even though there are moments that are clearly meant to be thrilling, those moments don’t feel as intense as they should. In one scene near the end of the episode, a man threatens to detonate a suicide vest in front of several of the main characters. The scene should take your breath away, but it doesn’t. A military drama should be riveting and emotionally investing, but SEAL TEAM’s pilot is instead one of the most boring hours of television I’ve seen this year.
Networks may not have the budget or the star power that cable channels like FX and HBO do, but shows like THE GOOD WIFE and THIS IS US prove that networks can still make powerful, compelling television. This series is not one of those lucky cases. In real life, SEAL teams have to make hard decisions that we can’t even begin to fathom, living with those choices in the process. None of that emotion gets put into the pilot of SEAL TEAM. Instead, we’re stuck with a lifeless drama that runs on bravura and not much else. Trust me, you’d be better off watching old episodes of HOMELAND.
SEAL TEAM airs on CBS on Wednesdays