12 December 2013

TV Sitcom About British EOD Team is the Bomb-diggity

Producers of "Bluestone 42," a 30-minute sitcom about a British Explosive Ordnance Disposal (E.O.D.) team operating in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, have announced a Christmas-themed special will air on December 23.

The 8-episode series debuted in March 2013 on BBC Three. A second season is reportedly also in production for 2014.

Click here for a short teaser video on YouTube. (Note: NOT suitable for work, due to profanity)

The series takes its name from the team's callsign, "Bluestone-Four-Two." The radio-correct pronunciation of "42" is the first of many military details the writers get right. You might even say that "Bluestone-42" has achieved the Holy Grail of military comedy: It's smart, snarky, and smacks of the real deal downrange.

The cast of characters, for example, will be funny and familiar to military veterans: Cpl. Lynda Bird is a hard-charging one-of-the-boys, who takes her job as the squad's electronic countermeasures (E.C.M.) expert—the "bleep"—very seriously. She also has a softer side, however, and develops an emotional attachment to "Arthur" the robot.

Female chaplain Maj. Mary Greenstock fights off the romantic advances of Ammunition Technical Officer Capt. Nick Medhurst, as well as an unhealthy love of gambling, while handing out sweets and spirituality. She also organizes morale-building events.

Cpl. Christian "Millsy" Mills loves to create graphs, After-Action Reports, and paperwork that is both necessary and unnecessary.

Privates "Mac" and "Rocket" pass the downtime by inventing extreme sports such as "Total Fencing Deluxe", or by arguing about topics such as the true purpose of a rifles' bipod grip while on guard duty.

There are more characters, but you get the idea ...

Some of the accents and allied-army jargon are occasionally a bit hard to parse, but the language used in the series has neither been dumbed-down or cleaned-up. It is, in fact, refreshingly realistic. The troops joke openly about bodily functions and self-gratification. They engage in all sorts of ribbing and ribaldry, and often push the joke beyond the tasteful or appropriate. For all the childish behavior, however, the characters also act like soldiers, apologize as necessary, and drive on with the mission.

The vibe, in short, is equal parts "Generation Kill" (2008), "M*A*S*H" (1972), and "Bomb Patrol Afghanistan" (2011).

The show even gets the atmospherics correct: The doors are plywood. The furniture is rubbish. The heat is unbearable. The missions and menus are repetitive. Only your teammates can help you get through the days downrange, and they're being insufferable, too.

Oh, and there's profanity. Lots of profanity. Definitely not suitable for (civilian) work. Some of it is even understandable through all the brogue. And all of it is appropriate.

The BBC Three website offers plenty "Bluetooth 42" promo clips on its website, as well as wonderfully detailed supporting materials. Consider, for example, this gallery of letters from home, or candid shots of the characters.

For fans in the United States, the series is available only as an imported Region 2 DVD. Full episodes might be available, however, through a search of YouTube or other video sites.

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