- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2006

Dennis Haysbert’s President David Palmer got assassinated on this season’s “24” just in time to join the fight against terrorists on another front — specifically “The Unit,” the new CBS action drama that follows a special forces team aimed at neutralizing al Qaeda and other like-minded groups.

Written and co-executive produced by David Mamet, the series follows the men who globetrot for a living while their wives stay home with nary a clue as to where they are and when, or if, they’re coming back.

It’s the second part of the equation where this “Unit” finds its singular voice. We watch young Kim Brown (Audrey Marie Anderson) adjust to having a husband in the special ops field during Tuesday’s 9 p.m. premiere, while also being coddled — and sometimes scolded — by fellow wives who know the value of keeping their husbands’ secrets.

Kim’s husband, Bob (Scott Foley), has just entered the titular unit when news of a hijacking hits the media. Bob, along with veteran unit soldier Jonas Blane (Mr. Haysbert), is told to fly directly to the scene to assemble a strike force to defeat the terrorists.

Meanwhile, Kim meets with a pair of fellow unit wives who try to ease her into her new life. But she wants nothing to do with this welcome wagon. She’d rather live off-base, preferably near the local college, so she can have as normal a life as possible. She’s strong-willed, independent, and perhaps a bit full of herself.

But Jonas’ wife, Molly (Regina Taylor), tells her none of that is possible. It’s a lesson Kim is hard-pressed to accept, especially when she learns she’s expecting a second child. Within minutes, we see the camaraderie between the wives as well as the suffocating lives they lead by necessity.

By comparison, the unit members look like they’re having the time of their lives. Sure, they sneak glances at their wives’ photographs before charging into battle, but “The Unit” doesn’t shy away from the notion that these soldiers love what they do. And why not, when, wherever they go, they supercede local authority and do pretty much as they please?

Too bad the explosive showdown fails to quicken the pulse, particularly during the herky-jerky slow-motion finale.

“The Unit’s” dialogue is a far cry from generic TV patter. Yet the bristling beats Mr. Mamet typically brings to bear are hard to find. It might take a few weeks before meatier subplots, and lingering moral issues, so let the famed writer-playwright hit his stride. Already, thanks to Mr. Mamet’s tough-as-nails Molly and the conflicted Kim, we see the start of some deliciously complex figures.

Tuesday’s premiere ends with a teaser hinting at infidelity in the plastic-perfect world of the unit’s wives. We’ll need some of that to relieve the tension each week, and there’s little doubt the pressure cooker lives led by both the soldiers and their significant others lead to all kinds of ethical crossfires.

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