A Few Ideas For a Navy SEALs Drama

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Since apparently we’re getting a Navy SEALs television drama in addition to all those movies, it’s worth thinking about what that show might look like.

Unlike other shows that set up implausible collaborations between government agencies, or that empower its characters beyond the bounds of things they’d normally be allowed to do in the course of their day-to-day jobs, Navy SEALs do a wide variety of things, and regularly work with other agencies, particularly the CIA. It would make a lot of sense to follow the NCIS model on this and have regular plot points about the challenge of inter-agency cooperation, information-sharing, and operation-planning. All-out mayhem’s interesting to a certain extent, but it’s even more interesting when the people carrying out missions have to follow constraints, whether it’s not leaving a crashed helicopter on the ground in Pakistan or extracting a contractor without revealing his ties to the American government.

Second, I’d like to a procedural that isn’t just a case-of-the-week format. Part of what’s interesting about the SEALs, as narrative devices, is the planning process, and the acknowledgment that you can’t ever really prepare for the real thing. If the SEALs do the equivalent of killing Osama bin Laden in every episode, each mission will lose power quickly, but if we get to see the build-up over a couple of episodes, there will be real tension there.

And third, and perhaps hardest, I hope this show figures out something interesting to do with the families of the SEAL team members we’re apparently going to have as part of the show. It might be a decent idea to have them there especially if missions are going to be stretched out over a couple of episodes in a plausible way. And I respect the desire to dramatize and give respect to the struggles of military families. But I worry that this is a way to get another implausible case-of-the-week in there. Military families go through enough; there’s something a bit odd about beating them up on-screen and using it for our entertainment. If they’re going to be in the mix, I hope the show finds something creative and thoughtful to do with those characters that doesn’t result in an implausible or overly-busy program.