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Three Shows Wage War On Terror

This article was originally published in MediaPost.com by Adam Buckman

From Liberia to Damascus to Somalia, TV’s War on Terror is nothing if not far-flung. Watch out, bad guys -- TV is a triple-threat this season with three terror-fighting dramas.

The shows are sort of the same, but different too. In all three, young male hunks and female beauties in camo and keffiyeh are manning the front lines, tracking down baddies and rescuing the kidnapped.

The shows are “SEAL Team” on CBS/ParamountPlus, “The Brave” on NBC and “Valor” on the CW. Where this last show called “Valor” is concerned, whether or not the special-ops warriors carried out a mission in Somalia with valor is an open question that forms the basis for this show’s ongoing story arc.

First up is “The Brave,” on this show, the requisite grownup is Anne Heche, who guides this show's exuberant special-ops team from some sort of intelligence headquarters in Washington (the acronym is not specified, or if it was, it blew right by me while I watched the pilot).

In the premiere episode, a team headed by a gung-ho 30-something in a dashing beard is assigned to rescue a female American doctor kidnapped by terrorists in war-torn Damascus. It turns out she is being held by a terrorist kingpin who has long been sought by the Americans.

The storyline roughly resembles the plot of the premiere episode of “SEAL Team.”

In this one, a female American aid worker (who might also be a doctor) is being held captive by a terrorist group in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. This group is also headed up by a high-profile target the Americans would like to capture or kill.

The head of the American team is a grizzled vet played by David Boreanaz, who is proving himself to be one of TV's most durable leading men -- like a latter-day Robert Urich.

He is the best part of “SEAL Team,” which is also the best of the three terror-fighting dramas. I'm no expert on the authenticity of these kinds of special-ops TV shows, but this one simply felt more credible than the others.

The premiere episode also had few, if any, plot points or procedural inventions that rang false -- or at the very least, seemed like they would never work in the real world. The action sequences were taut and suspenseful too.

On “The Brave,” the action was even more exciting, but along the way, you could be forgiven for finding some of it unbelievable.

For example, in a scene where a terrorist bad guy is being trailed on foot through a crowded bazaar, the man trailing him from only 10 to 20 feet away is obviously an American -- and seemingly the only American for miles around. As such, he stood out like a sore thumb.

This show also has scenes in which bespectacled functionaries back at headquarters come up with information on their computer screens in milliseconds after a few finger-taps on a keyboard. They must not use Google.

In another cliché from scores of terror-fighting movies and TV shows, the intelligence technicians have access to detailed diagrams of every building on earth, enabling them to instruct their operatives on the ground where the next fire door to a back stairway is located halfway across the globe. Maybe this is possible in the real world of intelligence gathering. Or maybe not.

Despite these reservations, I have to admit I liked “The Brave” anyway.

In contrast to “SEAL Team” and “The Brave,” the CW's “Valor” is characterized by long intervals of tedium. Instead of a laser focus on action plans and sequences -- as in the other two shows -- “Valor” is more about what happens between missions.

This seems to be a mistake because 16 years of War on Terror movies and TV shows since 9/11 have taught us to expect action on our large and small screens.

In “Valor,” one is forced to watch long periods of inaction. As a result, in the absence of action, you get a lot of dull dialogue and character development.

Unfortunately, getting to know the lives and loves of this group of male and female characters is not nearly as interesting as watching the terror fighters in the other shows blow up bad guys.