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Networks enlist military shows with 'SEAL Team,' 'The Brave'

Posted September 25

Television trends have become diluted by abundance, but if this fall is any guide, there's still a perceived appetite for elite military teams kicking terrorist butt.

This week brings two similar enlistments in an effort to attract viewers: NBC's "The Brave," about an elite special-ops squad; and CBS' "SEAL Team," featuring "Bones" alum David Boreanaz as the family man who leads an equally intrepid group of heroes, and the personal toll that exacts upon them.

They will be joined next month by "Valor," a CW drama that, in a bit of a departure for the network, sheds superheroes for military ones -- in this case, Army helicopter pilots, with a mystery surrounding their last top-secret mission. History channel, meanwhile, has already renewed its SEAL-themed drama, "Six," which premiered earlier this year.

The flurry of such fare also follows this month's release of "American Assassin," an adaptation of the Vince Flynn novels about Mitch Rapp, who channels his anger after having his life upended by terrorism into seeking vengeance via a CIA special-ops unit.

For NBC, in particular, "The Brave" will seek to follow a familiar pattern. The network is launching the show Mondays after "The Voice," its high-rated singing competition, which previously served as a launching pad for the similarly action-oriented dramas "The Blacklist" and "Blindspot."

For CBS, meanwhile, "SEAL Team" isn't much of a stretch tonally from its hugely successful "NCIS" franchise. And just to keep the reliance on acronyms going, "S.W.A.T.," a reboot of the 1970s cop show, will bring a more domestic take on crime-fighting to its lineup in November.

Networks don't operate in a vacuum, and at the very least there seems to be the equivalent of a programming virus going around when three of them come down with a case of military fever in short order. Such a trend happened last season with time-travel shows, and, notably, in 2001, when the spy-themed dramas "24," "Alias" and "The Agency" were all scheduled to premiere -- plans that were disrupted, temporarily, by the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Addressing journalists at the TV Critics Assn. tour in August, the producers of "SEAL Team" stressed that the series "transcends partisan politics" and that, indeed, it was "anyone's guess" where the country would be politically when they began developing the show.

Other showrunners noted that their programs would be defined by the characters. "Valor," for example, features a female pilot (played by Christine Ochoa), with producers suggesting that and the show's soapier elements would set it apart.

Based on the pilots, none of the new shows are particularly memorable, and the thematic overlap -- viewed in any kind of proximity -- surely doesn't help in terms of standing out from the crowd.

That doesn't make the mission of surviving to see a second season impossible. But the odds against more than one making it are pretty long indeed.

"The Brave" premieres Sept. 25 at 10 p.m. on NBC. "SEAL Team" premieres Sept. 27 at 9 p.m. on CBS. "Valor" premieres Oct. 9 at 9 p.m. on CW.

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