Glen Greenwald disapproves.
I wonder how actual troops who face real danger to their lives feel about having NBC exploit The Troops and convert their combat burdens into a fun reality show with feigned “danger.” And, of course, the substantial profit NBC hopes to make from selling commercials won’t be donated to veterans groups at all but will be tallied up as corporate profits — but that’s all just totally incidental to the Honor The Troops goal motivating all of this.In an update, Mr Greenwald notes that nine recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but including none former Vice President Gore, former President Carter, nor current President Obama, have called on NBC to cancel the show.
The ways in which this is all so sleazy, repulsive and propagandistic are too self-evident to require much discussion. There is, though, a real value: here we have a major television network finally being relatively candid about the fact that they view war and militarism, first and foremost, as a source of entertainment and profit.
A Washington Post review is also critical, if less harsh.
Adding a celebrity quotient to the military-industrial complex is nothing new — Bob Hope taught us that — but NBC’s reality competition show, “Stars Earn Stripes,” enthusiastically melds warfare and fame into a fairly solid drill exercise in gung-ho rituals. It’s a lot of hooah with a bit of puffed-chest hooeyThe substance of the review, however, is in a review of a second reality show called Get to Work.
It also feels about five years too late, in both its reality-TV tropes and its message of pride. It harks back to the “Mission Accomplished!” era of attacks and setbacks in the Middle East.
At Second Chance, strict counselors first break their adult students down emotionally, while teaching these men and women the most basic survival skills of cubicle land: eye contact, firm handshakes, clear conversations and positive attitudes. (Nothing, alas, can be done about the neck tattoos snaking up from the buttoned shirt collar.)Yes, the failure of the economic stimulus to stimulate any economic expansion makes the trainers' and the trainees' task harder. Left unsaid, however, is how many of the clients were rendered unemployable by the do-your-own-thing culture and the non-judgemental elementary and secondary schools.
In each episode, “Get to Work” zeroes in on a few personal stories, as the students struggle to overcome their inhibitions and histories of failure. The first hurdle is simple timeliness, as half of them wander back late from a midmorning smoke break. Others flunk the program’s mandatory drug tests.
Even though the producers keep their sights on happy outcomes, “Get to Work” is depressing stuff, made more so by the economy that awaits these job seekers. It’s all so real it verges on the mundane, but the show is also strong and necessary medicine for these times.