HBO Battles Aversion to War Dramas with "Generation Kill"


It’s easy to see why David Simon and Ed Burns, who collaborated on HBO’s late, great series The Wire, were eager to follow that up by teaming with Evan Wright to make a TV version of his book about being a reporter embedded with the Marines as the led the ground assault in Iraq in the initial days and weeks of the still-current war there.

The result, Generation Kill, starts tonight at 9 ET, launching a seven-part offensive on an otherwise quiet TV summer. Generation Kill, like The Wire, is all about bureaucracy and missed opportunity, about some people trying their best to do well, while others around (and especially above) them have somewhat different agendas.

Lee Tergesen from Homicide: Life on the Street, another Simon-inspired series, is the only familiar face in Generation Kill as it begins. And even as it ends, seven hours later, the sheer number of characters makes many of them just as unfamiliar after all the waiting and joking and fighting and moaning is over.

This new war drama isn’t as polished, or as gripping, as HBO’s WWII miniseries Band of Brothers, but it’s certainly worth watching. A handful of actors, including Alexander Skarsgard as team 1 leader “Iceman,” James Ransone as his driver, and Chance Kelly as their gravel-voiced commander nicknamed “Godfather,” do distinguish themselves, and help viewers distinguish them from the others.

It feels like a realistic, unflinching look at a war we’re still fighting – but so did FX’s Over There in 2005, and most people didn’t care to watch it. That same fate may befall Generation Kill, but the work itself is worthwhile and memorable. HBO deserves credit for trying, and it’s a subject that should be confronted, not avoided – even in a made-for-TV miniseries.