×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Combat Missions

While U.S. troops are fighting for their lives in Afghanistan, 24 macho men are playing games in USA's "Combat Missions." Taking full advantage of America's war on terrorism, "Survivor" king Mark Burnett has tapped the nonfiction keg once more, coming up with an overtly patriotic series that would make Jerry Bruckheimer proud.

With:
Base Commander - Rudy Boesch

While U.S. troops are fighting for their lives in Afghanistan, 24 macho men are playing games in USA’s “Combat Missions.” Taking full advantage of America’s war on terrorism, “Survivor” king Mark Burnett has tapped the nonfiction keg once more, coming up with an overtly patriotic series that would make Jerry Bruckheimer proud. Flag-waving aside, this hunk-laden endurance test comes off as an exercise in utter manipulation due to its arrival as the genuine article develops overseas. It shows just how unreal reality TV can be.

Idea is interesting enough — and might have worked to greater effect if the U.S. wasn’t pitching its tent in and around Kabul. The men gather at the Mojave desert’s Camp Windstorm (specifically designed for “Combat Missions”) and break up into four six-person lineups dubbed Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta. Every week, two groups will battle for supremacy via military ops with names like Tank Take-Out, Fuel Dump Demolition, Urban Assault and Hostage Rescue. Using a training system called Miles 2000, all contenders trigger infrared lasers deployed from authentic weapons and vehicles.

At the end of each assignment, the losing squad (based on the activity’s time elapsed and men “lost”) will vote away a crew member. After 15 weeks, one man from one team is left standing, and he wins the majority of the $400,000 purse.

All of this is monitored by Rudy Boesch, the no-nonsense ex-Navy SEAL who almost took home Burnett’s first “Survivor” crown and who has ridden his 15 minutes of fame to new heights. His presence here is surely one rooted in familiarity — auds who think about tuning out will almost surely stay glued when he’s around — but his one-dimensional hosting duties are almost irrelevant. Looking menacing and acting rigorous, his only job is to explain rules and oversee discharges.

The concept itself isn’t so offensive, and neither are the participants; special forces are well represented, from the Green Berets to Marine Recons. They’re all pros with egos, physically fit enough to stand their ground and defend their posts. Contestant reactions are too staged, however: An otherwise loyal collection of men sound rather silly — especially during bona fide wartime — spouting conflict wisdom such as “I will not dishonor a man” and “Weak links must be destroyed.” After all, they get to go home and watch CNN when this is over, while their counterparts are hunting Al Qaeda leaders in far-off caves.

Contributing to the lack of reality is the absence of a female presence. Except for two bartenders who work at the makeshift Snake Pit clubhouse, women are nonexistent, making it hard to see this as anything but an ultimate fantasy camp complete with blond hostesses.

The look, feel and sound of “Combat Missions” is highly charged. Blank shell casings are routinely released from ever-present gunfire, while explosions, simulated tear gas and faux grenades are all deployed. The no-frills camerawork and quick-cut editing is almost a given, considering Burnett’s past projects, and patriotic marches are piped into almost every scene.

Combat Missions

Wed. Jan 16, 10 p.m.

Production: Videotaped in the Mojave desert by Mark Burnett Prods. Executive producers, Mark Burnett, Brian Gadinsky, David Russo.

Crew: Supervising producer, Craig Armstrong; co-supervising producer, Cord Keller; senior producer, Tim Powell; production designer, Steve Graziani. 60 MIN.

Cast: Base Commander - Rudy Boesch

More TV

  • Anthony Scaramucci to participate in the

    Anthony Scaramucci Light on Trump Talk in 'Celebrity Big Brother' Premiere

    CBS reality show “Big Brother” loves to tell its audience to “expect the unexpected,” but things went pretty much according to the assumed with Anthony Scaramucci on the second season premiere of the celebrity edition of the show. Right from his introductory package, Scaramucci had to acknowledge he was fired from the White House, “for [...]

  • 76th ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS --

    Tyler Perry: 6 Lessons He Shared at NATPE's 'Living the Dream' Summit

    MIAMI — Tyler Perry took time out of his “Madea’s Farewell” live stage tour and spent his Martin Luther King Jr. holiday giving an inspiring speech to aspiring producers and students gathered here for the annual NATPE convention. Perry was the keynoter Monday at the conference’s first ever “Living the Dream: A Career in Content” session [...]

  • Why Megan Mullally Won't Talk Politics

    Q&A: Why Megan Mullally Won't Talk Politics While Hosting the SAG Awards

    Megan Mullally is funny. The “Will & Grace” star can also sing and dance. While she’s not picking up the Oscar hosting gig after the Kevin Hart fiasco, Mullally will take center stage on Sunday, Jan. 27 when she makes her debut as the host of the 25th annual SAG Awards. Variety caught up with [...]

  • New England Patriots running back Sony

    CBS and Fox Cheer Big Turnout for NFL Conference Championships

    Sunday’s AFC and NFC championship games were nail-biters that went into overtime and sent viewership into overdrive. CBS harvested a whopping 53.9 million viewers as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady led his team to their third consecutive Super Bowl berth in a hard-fought primetime game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Viewership for the AFC [...]

  • RENT: Top L-R to Bottom L-R:

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of Jan. 21, 2019: 'Rent,' 'Celebrity Big Brother'

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, “Rent: Live” airs on Fox and “Celebrity Big Brother” returns for a second [...]

  • Black Monday: How Showtime Dusted Off

    'Black Monday': How Showtime Dusted Off An Old '80s Logo For Its New Comedy

    Cocaine’s a hell of a drug, but you’re not seeing things: That, indeed is Showtime’s old 1980s-era logo pasted all over marketing materials and promos for “Black Monday,” a tongue-in-cheek tale of the excesses exhibited by Wall Street traders in the lead-up to the stock market crash of 1987. The logo, which hasn’t been in [...]

  • 'Russian Doll' Review

    TV Review: 'Russian Doll'

    This is a particularly tricky review to write, but not because the merits of “Russian Doll” are at all ambiguous. On the contrary, the show is so striking and smart that I made a note to include it on my favorite TV shows of 2019 immediately after blowing through the season — which is saying [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content