The Runway – Your 2017 Pilot Survival Guide: FOX Dramas

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behind enemy lines

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Behind Enemy Lines

Logline: Described as a “distinctly patriotic series,” the military soap thriller follows a group of U.S. soldiers find themselves trapped behind enemy lines. The “distinctly patriotic series” is a multi-perspective narrative that closely follows our soldiers on the ground, and the officers and service men and women on a nearby aircraft carrier, along with intelligence officers in D.C., as they attempt to bring our heroes home safely and under the radar.
Cast: Marg Helgenberger, B.J. Britt, Gabriel Chavarria, Melia Kreiling, Benito Martinez, Colm Feore, Willa Fitzgerald, Dylan Bruno
Creators: Nikki Toscano (W / EP), Marty Bowen (EP), Wyck Godfrey (EP), John Davis (EP), John Fox (EP), McG (D / EP), Albert Page (CoEP)
Studios: 20th Century Fox Television, Temple Hill, Davis Entertainment

A concise setup introduces us to Ziggy (among about a dozen other named characters), a beloved pilot looking to quit the Navy. No doubt, this means only one thing: When America decides to send in a couple of F-18s to investigate Russia’s involvement in the Ukranian civil war, Ziggy will be sent in.

Ziggy’s not alone in this mission. By his side are Jacob, Islamophobic Reggie, and Shia, the first woman accepted into the SEAL Training program. Naturally, she’s Muslim too. The stage is set for much interpersonal conflict behind enemy lines.

The pilot gets many things right. Ziggy and his father Mateo’s troubled relationship feels nuanced and compelling. The young man is struggling to meet his father’s expectations. Even though I know where this arc goes, I’m intrigued.

I loved Admiral Decker, who works with Mateo to rescue Ziggy and his comrades. This is a strong and distinctive mentor role (she serves as a bridge of sorts between father and son). In fact, she’s a bit of an anti-thesis of Wendy Rhoades (Billions), one of my favorite characters in recent years. While Wendy spent the first season struggling to find power between two men wanting to destroy each other, Admiral Decker has all the power from the get-go.

But all’s not kosher. I really do wish shows would stop drawing so much attention to the fact that their female characters are female, and that their Muslim characters are Muslim. A unique (and distracting) element of the premise is the “race consideration” that crops up about halfway through, in as on-the-nose a manner as one can possibly imagine: Latino, Arab, and African-American characters stuck in all-white Ukraine, which proves to be an obstacle. Unlike Controversy and The Resident, the “social discussion” here is as network as it gets.

Tonally, the show frequently tips into melodrama (though arguably, this could work just fine for a network). And unless they’re planning to cast G.I. Joe merchandise and shoot this in Gary Newman’s backyard, this feels expensive.

Overall, in concept and execution, Behind Enemy Lines feels impeccably crafted for network television. The built-in audience doesn’t hurt, and its agenda is nowhere near as grating as NBC’s For God & Country.

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