Earnestness is often the enemy of sitcom writers. Snark and innuendo, which can indeed be loads of fun, reign in many half-hour shows, with NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” being a notable exception.
So Fox is taking a gamble, a worthy one, with its new comedy “Enlisted,” premiering Friday at 9:30.
Set on an Army post in Florida, the series chronicles the exploits of a group of “Stripes”-style misfits working in rear detachment — the members of a unit who stay behind to provide assistance, most crucially with families of deployed soldiers. But between the silly and sweet hijinks the writers weave a couple of serious threads about the tougher realities associated with military life, including loved ones left at home and the issues faced by soldiers returning from war.
It’s essentially a workplace comedy, so the tread is light and the tilt of the first four episodes available for review is on yuks, not brooding. “Enlisted” pokes fun not at service, but at the soldiers themselves, their competitive spirit, and personality quirks. There are a few things one can imagine members of the Armed Forces bristling at — including the tagline “Yes, we’re soldiers” — but the show’s heart feels like it’s in the right place.
Geoff Stults, (“7th Heaven,” “The Finder”) stars as Staff Sergeant Pete Hill, who returns from Afghanistan dismayed by the shape of the platoon he is now set to command in Rear D. That platoon includes his snarky middle brother, Derrick (Chris Lowell, “Veronica Mars”), and eager puppy dog little brother, Randy (Parker Young, “Suburgatory”). The brothers joined the service because of their dad, who was killed in action, and it’s part of what bonds them. The trio of actors have an instant chemistry and the dependable Keith David (“Platoon,” “There’s Something About Mary”) comes through again as the group’s gruffly funny commanding officer.