Let's be serious for a moment. Really serious. According to a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study released Monday, a Canadian soldier serving in Afghanistan is six times more likely to be killed than a U.S. soldier in Iraq.
Thirty-six Canadian soldiers have been killed there since 2002. The PM has pledged to add another 200 troops to the 2,300 already in the region, while NDP leader Jack Layton calls for their withdrawal. Canadians' support for the military mission in Afghanistan is wobblier than a Weeble.
Like many people, I'm behind the soldiers, just not the mess they're in. I'm quite content, though, to watch TV shows with a gung-ho attitude like 24, The Unit, last year's top-rated new drama, and the sophomore NCIS, a spinoff of veteran flag-waver JAG.
The military, and war, has often provided a backdrop for prime-time amusement, from M*A*S*H (Korea) to China Beach (Vietnam) to last season's Over There (Iraq).
Those shows at their core provided a commentary on those conflicts, but The Unit is an Old Spice-soaked old-school shoot-'em-up draped in the Stars and Stripes.
Set in the shadowy world of covert ops, The Unit revels in chest-beating lingo courtesy of show creator and acid-tongued playwright David Mamet. It stars Dennis Haysbert as Jonas, the leader of an elite Special Forces squad and America's last, best defence against terrorism.
Haysbert brought authority and intelligence to the role of President Palmer on 24, qualities sorely lacking in the real commander-in-chief, and his Jonas is an equally formidable presence, parachuting into global hot spots to rescue hostages and blow up terrorist cells.
Also on board is Felicity softy Scott Foley as a fresh-faced counterterrorism recruit. You can tell he's new to black ops (another Mamet buzzword) because he still has an army regulation buzz cut, unlike his rough-around-the-edges teammates.
Their only purpose each week is to follow orders and get the job done by any means necessary, no matter the cost. (Given all the testosterone, is it a coincidence that the word "unit" is also slang for penis?)
While the action - and plenty gets packed into each episode - has a night-vision green tinge and a serrated edge, it's still fantasy, just a sniper's shot and a catchy theme song away from The A-Team.
Weekly adventures may be set in Beirut, Afghanistan or Central America, but the problems the unit faces are always tactical, not political, and they're solved with a bullet or a blade or some well-placed plastic explosives.
The men, much like real soldiers, don't have the luxury of
questioning the rightness or wrongness of their orders. They do their jobs with no muss, fuss or paperwork.
It's part of the fantasy that war can be reduced to its simplest components, a series of objectives to be reached, missions accomplished. Never mind the hows and whys of this or any war.
Another fantasy is embedded in this one: that our men and women in the field (U.S., Canadian, whatever) are being given the material support they need.
In The Unit, no one is issued faulty bulletproof vests or the wrong colour camouflage uniform. In The Unit, extreme competence is standard issue.
The Unit airs Tuesdays at 9 pm on CBS and CH.
What to watch this week
Thursday, September 21
GREY'S ANATOMY The sex-starved surgeons of Seattle Grace Hospital make the switch from Sundays for season three, premiering tonight.
9 pm on ABC (preceded by last year's highlights at 8 pm)
Sunday, September 24
STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP Backstage drama at an SNL-style sketch comedy show from the creator of The West Wing, starring Amanda Peet and Matthew Perry .
10pm on CTV, repeats Monday at 10 pm on NBC
Monday, September 25
SMITH Big-screen baddie Ray Liotta and Sideways siren Virginia Madsen make the leap to the small screen in this Michael Mann-ish heist drama.
9 pm on CTV, repeats Tuesday 10 pm on CBS