Thursday, December 08, 2005
The notoriety of the Philippines' Islamic Terrorist Group Abu Sayyaf ("Bearer of the Sword" in Arabic) have reached the United States TV audience during the night before Thanksgiving episode of the latest NBC TV Series, E- Ring which is being top billed by Benjamin Bratt who portrays the battle- tested Major James "JT" Tinewski, a battle-tested Green Beret, Ranger and Delta Force operative and Dennis Hopper as Colonel Eli McNulty, a highly- decorated soldier and a former Vietnam War POW who came out of retirement after the 9-11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center to head the United States fight against the terrorists on a global stage. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, E- Ring is based on the fictional Special Operations Division (S.O.D.) inside the Pentagon's National Operations Command, whose main draw is to show to the viewing public the works of the men of the shadowy Special Operations Command and how they are confronting the growing menace of terrorism worldwide. The show is now gaining popularity among US TV viewers.
The November 23, 2005 episode entitled "The Forgotten" is about Scott Navarro, a Navy SEAL long thought to be dead but is said to be alive as relayed by a CIA operative to the SOD and is in fact in the hands of the notorious Abu Sayyaf bandits and being held in their stronghold in the mountains of Jolo, the main island of the Sulu archipelago in southern Philippines. When Colonel McNulty learns of the news, he immediately put the plan for his rescue into motion. As is always the case in real life and in real situation, in the corridors of power of the United States Department of Defense headquarters where critical decisions are made and decided upon, politicking, professional jealousy and intrigue abounds.
The show captures the conflict between the military and the civilian authorities on their views and the dilemmas they face be it with regards to the matter of national security, foreign policy or saving the life of a serviceman left behind. The viewers learn about the critical decisions made inside the air- conditioned rooms of the Pentagon by intelligence officers/ analysts and the execution of those decisions in the field by covert operatives.
So, when McNulty's plan to rescue the Navy SEAL was thumbed down by a Civilian Department of Defense Bureaucrat, he and his team in the E- Ring had to devise an alternative which lead to the so-called "backdoor" option just to get the soldier back on US soil and into the arms of his father- alive.
The show in an effort to add authenticity, made mention of some of the Abu Sayyaf's real- life notoriety like the infamous Sipadan Hostage- taking incident as well as that of the kidnapping of the two American Missionaries from the Dos Palmas Resort in the island of Palawan who although they refrained from mentioning the names of the Burnham couple, it is quite obvious whom they're referring to when they said that, "the husband was killed during the rescue attempt by the Philippine Security Forces." But all these came out hollow for aside from being ignorant of the Joint Republic of the Philippines- United States Military Treaty, they were also at a loss on the capability of the Philippine Military as well as the Abu Sayyaf which was evident in the lines delivered by the casts during one of the E-Rings brain storming sessions. This is unforgivable for a big- budgeted made for TV- series from a big TV player like NBC. The scriptwriters for this episode had suffered from what spooks would term as "Failure of Intelligence."
The producers tried hard to impress upon the viewers the excitement and the drama in the inner circle of the Pentagon's E-ring but failed. It is not because of the characters fault but rather of the scripts' lack of depth in tackling the topic. They could have dug deeper into the plot and not resort to the fast- paced visual effects to mask the shallowness of the story.
In the end, Colonel McNulty and his men have outmaneuvered the civilian bureaucrat which only shows that when it comes to military matters, nobody knows the ins and outs of special operations like the men in the Pentagon's E- Ring. If only President George W. Bush have consulted them before invading Iraq in the guise of looking for Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction which turned out to be a big embarassment for his administration but that is another story. Only time will tell though whether the new NBC behind-the scenes Power drama will again suffer or not from "Failure of Intelligence" and endure the forever changing and demanding American Television Market.