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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Unit: Season 1
The Unit: Season 1
Fox // Unrated // September 19, 2006
List Price: $49.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Robinson | posted September 10, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The First Season

Following the success of NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service, CBS put together another military drama The Unit that aired in March 2006 and had thirteen episodes in its first season. The Unit is a television drama from executive producers Shawn Ryan (The Shield, Angel) and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet based upon the book Inside Delta Force written by Eric Haney. The series details the daily life of an elite United States Army Special Forces unit from two perspectives, the unit and the home front. The unit, dubbed Alpha Team, is comprised of five Special Forces operatives who go on covert counter-terrorism missions around the world to preserve the sanctity and the freedom of the United States and its people. The catch is no one can know about their missions or what they do. The members of the unit and their wives must keep their true nature of their work a secret, which taxes everyone. To the world, they work as clerks for the 303rd Logistical Studies Unit.

The Unit's main cast is comprised of nine characters. Leading the cast is Dennis Haysbert from the Emmy Award winning series 24 as Sergeant Major Jonas Blane. On most missions, Jonas commands his fellows into combat and covert missions. He is a strong-willed leader with a surefire attitude and determination to succeed. Haysbert fits the role almost too perfectly as a convincing commando and leader. Molly (Regina Taylor) is Jonas' wife, who acts as the unofficial leader for the wives of the units and monitors any potential problems on the home front that could lead to a breach in security. Staff Sergeant Bob Brown (Scott Foley, Felicity) is the latest addition to the unit. He is a highly trained solider who is adjusting to his new work and lifestyle. His wife Kim (Audrey Marie Anderson) is, like the other wives, afraid of losing her husband. She is not happy with his new position and the stressful requirements that are pushed onto her husband. Despite, she slowly finds herself getting into the life and accepting her role.

Master Sergeant Mack Gerhardt (Max Martini) is second to Jonas and he also takes point on field operations when Jonas is on other assignments. He is somewhat hot-headed, which can be expected with the stress of his work. He is, nonetheless, a tough character. His wife is Tiffy (Abby Brammel) and she is involved in a love affair with Mack's superior Tom. The last two members of the unit are Sergeants First Class Charles Grey (Michael Irby) and Hector Williams (Demore Barnes). Charles and Hector are both single and not as significant to the overall drama as the married couples, but they still have their part in the series. Overseeing the unit from the base is Colonel Tom Ryan. Tom is played by Robert Patrick and he gives an awesome performance as the commanding officer who deals with the tactical and bureaucracy of the unit and its mission.

The strength in The Unit is twofold. First off, the cast does a tremendous job with Haysbert in the lead. He is phenomenal and gives his character the same convincing demeanor as a leader and strong-willed figure he provided his role of President David Palmer in 24. The other cast members give great leading and supporting performances. For example, Foley fits into his role as the green solider in the unit who is not quite sure of himself, but slowly fits more and more into his duties, and Patrick is great as the commanding officer, who not only looks the part, but acts it.

The show's second major strength comes from its stories and writing. The content about the covert missions and whatnot is spectacular. There is a lot of intrigue surrounding the missions the unit embarks upon that spans from counter-terrorism activities to rescue missions to government espionage to protection details. There are also a fair amount of stories that tie the unit into other government agencies like the CIA and FBI, and some foreign government forces. What works for the stories is how they are written. The content is never fluffy or lackluster, but the opposite. The stories are intense and compelling. On the flipside, the dramatic side regarding the home front is not nearly as strong or compelling. It has its weakness and gets fluffy and feels like your average melodrama with love triangles. While not awful, it just does not have the same punch as the show's other leading aspects. In the overall scheme of things, The Unit is a strong series with an amazing cast and compelling stories. For strong episodes, all of the series' season one episodes are engaging.

The series' first season begins with the episode "First Responders", which is a nitty-gritty introduction to the dramatic and intense lives of the members of Alpha Team and their families. While the unit's latest member Bob is training with Jonas in Idaho, a group of Arabic terrorists hold an airliner and its passengers as hostages. Bob's training is put on hold and he is put into action. Jonas and his crew also deal with the bureaucracy of the FBI and jurisdiction to save the passengers from the terrorists. Molly and Tiffy try to get Kim accustomed to her new life and responsibilities as the wife of a member of the unit, which she is reluctant to accept at first. This episode is a great introduction to the excitement the show offers and its well rounded cast.

"200th" is an interesting episode because it deals with the political side of the unit. Tom entertains a senator who is largely responsible for the unit's funding and tries to explain to her why the need to expand the training facilities, amongst other things. The storylines that follow deal with the Tom and the wives getting the senator to understand their needs and why it is important, and Bob dealing with a mistake he made during a training operation--he grazed Mack's arm with a bullet. The interesting aspects are seeing the drama from the wives and the suffering they go through while their significant others are on deployment, as well as Bob coming to terms with being the new guy and fitting in with his fellows. There is also a pretty intense story with Jonas going solo to rescue a group of teenage missionaries in Indonesia.

In "Non-Permissive Environment", the covert group is in Spain to conduct an assassination. However, while the operation is in play, the Spanish government revokes their blessing because they want to use the individual to their advantage and they can't if he is dead. Unfortunately, when Jonas is instructed by CIA counterparts the mission has been scrapped, he is unable to get word to the others in time. The target is executed and the entire unit goes into escape and evade mode. In escape and evade, the group splits up and has to return home on his own accord. Everyone except for Bob makes a clean return and the story following him getting back to United States soil is pretty intriguing.

The other episodes in this season, as previously mentioned, make for some compelling action and drama. The content is engaging and dramatic with fantastic acting performances and well-written, detailed stories. There are some intense episodes like "SERE", where the unit is put into an extreme training operation aimed at helping them prepare to stand torture, or " Morale, Welfare and Recreation", where the unit works with (or rather instructs) the FBI in bomb situation. In the end, The Unit has plenty of strong stories that will suck you in and leave you wanting more.

Episode Guide
1. First Responders
2. Stress
3. 200th Hour
4. True Believers
5. Non-Permissive Environment
6. Security
7. Dedication
8. SERE
9. Eating the Young
10. Unannounced
11. Exposure
12. Morale, Welfare and Recreation
13. The Wall

The DVD

Video:
The video in this release is given in an anamorphic 1.78:1 ratio widescreen color format. The picture quality is quite good. It suffers from a slight grain, but detail remains to be sharp and clear. However, there are moments when the picture suffers noticeable compression artifacts. Overall, the picture is relatively clean and should look good on big screen televisions.

Audio:
The audio track in this release is in English 5.1 Dolby digital surround. In general, the sound quality is very good and it provides an audible and clean track. The dialogue is usually a little flat while music and sound effects come off rich and vibrant. Additionally the 5.1 track is dynamic and makes good use of the surround sound capability.

There are subtitles included in English, Spanish, and French, as well as support for closed captioning.

Extras:
For special features, The Unit: Season 1 with an audio commentary and a featurette. The commentary is for the episode "SERE" with Shawn Ryan, Eric Haney, and Demore Barnes. "SERE" was a pretty intense episode with the characters going through an extreme training drill and using it for a commentary was a good choice. If you enjoyed the season episodes as much as I did, you will want to hear Ryan, Haney, and Barnes in this commentary. As a former Delta Force member, Haney makes some interesting comments. The three are also fairly lively during the commentary and easy to follow. It is unfortunate more commentaries were not included. The featurette entitled "Inside Delta Force" stars Eric Hanley, David Mamet, and Shawn Ryan. In it, the producers talk about the making of the show and other aspects of the series. It includes plenty of clips from the season and behind the scenes footage. The runtime is under eight minutes.

Final Thoughts:
When The Unit aired on television earlier this year I managed to catch a couple episodes, but I never really got into the show. After watching the entire first season start-to-finish, I found my opinion was a lot different. I found the series has a lot to offer. The actors and actresses are all very strong in their roles and they give compelling performances. The stories are also very well-written and offer intriguing tales about the unit's covert missions in counter-terrorism, as well as a few decent tales involving the home front. In the end, the first season of The Unit proves to be a lot of fun and it is something you should not miss.

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