'Enlisted' producers Kevin Biegel & Mike Royce talk about FOX military comedy
On getting laughs while being respectful to the military, the 'Stripes' influence, and more
Geoff Stults is a guy who Bill (Lawrence) would call a handsome face jock, but he's shown to have this sillier side over time.
Kevin Biegel: Yeah, he's been great. We really needed someone on this who could ground the entire thing, but you could also buy as a soldier, you could also buy as a big brother, and he was also funny. And Geoff gave us all of that. The great thing about him is just from day one on the pilot, he was so engaged as far as meeting every single actor. He read with a couple hundred actors before we found Chris and before we found Parker. He really wanted to make sure that this seemed like a real cohesive brother unit. And I think that's one of the strongest things about the show is that there's no fake chemistry, it's all real. They're like three brothers. They act like three brothers.
Mike Royce: On “Men of a Certain Age,” Ray (Romano) obviously was around and we did everything together. Geoff, even though he was not co-creating the show or whatever, he came to all the reads and everything. The chemistry thing reminded me that on “Men of a Certain Age,” the most important thing was that we had to buy that they're friends. The moment that you don't buy they're friends those shows not working. So we spent an enormous amount of time on it. Geoff was really intent on that as that was our intent is that that relationship is the thing that is the anchor of the show. And these guys, that chemistry between them, I don't want to oversell it, but they really clicked and it took a little while to find it but Geoff was like driving that. And it works really well.
Kevin Biegel: And it turned into these guys. I mean Parker's hanging out at Geoff's house and Chris is making fun of both of 'em for hanging out so much together. Parker follows Geoff around like a puppy dog; it's hilarious.
Mike Royce: They really have embraced their roles offstage.
Kevin Biegel: It makes our job easier.
How do you fit someone with such a goofy persona like Parker Young’s character into this world?
Kevin Biegel: Well, he's earnest, and that's what drives him, and he's enthusiastic. And on these bases in rear D, such a huge part of that job is dealing with the families of deployed soldiers and dealing with the husbands and wives and the kids of these soldiers who are overseas. And maybe engaging with those people is something that Geoff's character and Chris's character wouldn't be great at. But Parker's character’s wonderful at it.
Mike Royce: In the pilot you see a lot of what Randy wants to be but can't be and is terrible at. And as we go along you see also the whole other side, which is he loves being there. Why does he love being there? He's good at certain other things; he just has this whole other skill set.
Would you each say that “Stripes” is your favorite military comedy or would you pick something else?
Kevin Biegel: “Stripes” is my favorite.
Mike Royce: Yeah, I guess I'd have to say “Stripes.”
Kevin Biegel: “Stripes” was on repeat while the pilot was getting written.
Mike Royce: First hour.
Kevin Biegel: Yeah, the first hour of stripes.
Do you guys go back at any of the older military comedy shows like “McHale's Navy,” or “The Phil Silver Show,” any of that when it was in repeats growing up?
Mike Royce: I have not. I'm trying to get my head full of current military knowledge so I know what world I'm in. If I know the workplace, it's more about the personal show what's happening there.
Kevin Biegel: And I really wanted to do something that reflected the world now. You go back to like Bilko or “McHale's Navy,” as funny as those shows are, those shows on the air now would be what the show shouldn't be. If it's just straight goofy and funny, that's not what this show should be. And I didn't want that to, I don't want to say “taint,” but I didn't want this show to take that kind of directional turn. It's still got to be funny; it still got to be engaging and people still have to like it, but I don't think we can do Bilko today. You have to tweak it a little bit. I love “M*A*S*H,” obviously, but for inspiration I'm looking at stuff like “The Office” and “New Girl.” Those people who exist in those worlds on those shows also exist in the world of the military.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org