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  • Baltimore City Paper

Generation Kill: Did Anybody Tune In?


James Ransone | Image by "borrowed" from http://www.20minutes.fr

Media outlets all over the country spilled gallons of ink (and buckets of pixels and ions) singing the praises of David Simon and Ed Burns'

The Wire

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during its five-season run,

City Paper

not least among them. Many

Wire

fans here and beyond the walls of

CP

HQ salved their disappointment when the series ended in March by looking forward to

, Simon and Burns' HBO miniseries adaptation of reporter Evan Wright's book recounting his experiences while embedded with the Marines First Reconnaissance Battalion during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. A modest wave of HBO-stoked hype (including a highly visible bus-bench ad campaign around town) led up to the July 13 debut of the first of seven episodes and then . . . crickets.

Now that

Generation Kill

has concluded its run, we find ourselves wondering: Is it just us, or did hardly anyone watch it, much less make water-cooler chat about it? To be fair, summer isn't traditionally a TV-watching season (see also: reruns), and we know lots of people these days who watch HBO on DVD months, even years later rather than pay for a subscription, but it's not like

Generation Kill

wasn't must-see TV. It was quite good, in fact, a skillful transplanting of Simon and Burns' feel for people working under stress against the absurdities and outrages heaped on them by higher-ups in an unforgiving system. It also made good use of hometown boy and

Wire

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breakout James Ransone as motormouth Cpl. Ray Person, and we're gonna be on the lookout for previously obscure standouts Alexander Skarsgard, Jon Huertes, and Stark Sands from here on out.

Of course, it probably didn't help rake in viewers that, on top of the usual Simon/Burns complexity and no-hand-holding immersion, almost all of the dozens of characters talked alike, dressed alike, and had the same haircut, by design. And then there's the larger issue of the repeated face-plants of various well-meaning Iraq war-based movies over the past couple of years, indicating that perhaps Americans just aren't ready to entertain, so to speak, the war on screen. True to form,

Generation Kill

spared no illusions about the fact that the seeds for the current disaster in Iraq were sown even as U.S. forces invaded, when we still thought the war was about WMDs and liberating a country and Americans' good intentions hadn't been subsumed by poor planning, cross purposes, and galloping chaos.

In a weird way one of the things we're most disappointed by in regard to

Generation Kill

is the fact that its pungent lingo didn't migrate off the screen the way

The Wire

's did. We really wanted to see "oscar mike" and "I am assured of this" and "screwby" take off the way "Sheee-it" and "Oh, indeed" and calling cops "po-lice" with no article did. Maybe once the DVDs come out.

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