Military affairs beat: This new show puts the real in reality TV

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 1, 2011 - 9:46 PM

"Bomb Patrol: Afghanistan" is "The Hurt Locker" meets "Ice Road Truckers." It reflects the absolute anxiety of the deployment of a squad of Navy bomb technicians in northern Afghanistan. The 10-part series, which airs on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. CST, is broadcast on the youth-oriented, testosterone-driven G4 network, and for good reason. G4 proclaims itself the go-to destination for the male 18-34 "geek culture" demo, and the heroes of this show, more often than not, are radio-controlled robots and the men who operate them.

The show follows the eight-man Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal Platoon 342, using over 15 cameras, including both helmet and body mounted, to document the five-month tour.

For anyone who has wondered what it's like to travel the roads of Afghanistan, "Bomb Patrol: Afghanistan" captures the puckering of the unknown. When is the next bomb going to go off? Is that person standing next to me a friend or an enemy? For anyone who has been there, the anxiety at times can be overwhelming.

And that was the intention of the producers. Many war documentaries, including the Oscar-nominated "Restrepo," follow the action from the perspective of a camera operator. Using the helmet and body cameras, the viewer gets a real time feeling for what the men are going through when they go through it.

"Once the platoon goes out of the wire, they are in danger from 360 degrees," said Dan Cesareo, one of the executive producers. "It can come from anywhere at any time."

A crew of seven followed the platoon in Afghanistan and shot 4,000 hours of footage. The result can be humorous in a classic military kind of way, like in the season premiere when a youthful member of the squad first blows up a remote-controlled robot, then disables another and sends a third tumbling into the bomb crater of the first.

But the overall impact is one of a clenched fist. Cesareo, whose company also produces the less-threatening "DC Cupcakes," says to expect more as the series continues.

mbrunswick@startribune.com 612-673-4434

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