David Boreanaz has been a TV fixture for 20 years, winning over wholly different fanbases in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and his character's spinoff) and in the long-running Fox hit Bones. He's heading to CBS for the first time for the brand new drama SEAL Team, one of several military-driven premieres hitting primetime in the near future. SEAL Team is easily the best of that bunch, and it's decent in general, thanks to layered and believable characters combined with an atmospheric intensity that shoots for mild dread over loud action. Plus, David Boreanaz remains one of TV's most watchable actors.
For SEAL Team -- which I cannot stop calling "Navy Seal," because I so very rarely start things with the word "seal" -- David Boreanaz stars as Jason Hayes, the quick-thinking and emotionally distant leader of the elite Tier One squad. The series starts off by relaying a key moment in Jason's life that came as close to breaking him as anything else could: the death of a close friend and soldier-in-arms. The details behind that death haunt him in different ways, and when paired with his unending devotion to the job, they create a pretty toxic elixir that made his home life implode. Though, of course, there is still something there between Jason and oft-ignored wife Alana (Michaela McManus), and it's not just their kids.
But if we're being honest here, it's obvious that Jason's real family is his work team, and while the wife-and-kids stuff certainly adds to the drama and inner turmoil going on within Jason's head and heart, the titular SEAL team is what makes this show more fun and captivating. On his right side is his longtime partner-in-duty Ray Perry, whose citizen life is on the flip side of Jason's. Played with much gusto and bravado from Neil Brown Jr., Ray has spent enough time around Jason to basically be attached at the mind when on the job, and the latter's emotional issues could potentially disrupt that in some ways.
On Jason's left side, meanwhile, is Sonny Quinn, played by CSI: NY and Justified vet A.J. Buckley. Sonny has a questionable past, thanks to his sometimes rambunctious behavior. While he usually falls in line, that might not always be the case in the future, which could make for more interesting personal disputes. Holding the team together, at least as far as keeping everyone equipped and in line goes, is Toni Trucks' charismatic Lisa Davis, who is quick to shut down bullshit, and will hopefully factor more into the underlying drama in the future.
As for the other main characters, Bates Motel's Max Thieriot plays the overly impulsive Clay Spenser, who is in training to become a member of the Tier One team, but is always getting in his own way; making things more difficult is the fact that he's a second-generation SEAL whose father released a polarizing book. And then there's Jessica Paré's Mandy Ellis, a CIA analyst whose main focus in life is eliminating terrorist threats, which comes in handy on SEAL Team, although this group is about more than just taking out the enemy.
As stated before, SEAL Team works best when its militant characters are all together. It's just as enjoyable to watch Jason, Ray and Sonny joking around and being chummy as it is to watch them in the heat of a mission, where silence and unspoken understanding are keys to victory. For whatever reason, I actually want to believe that David Boreanaz's leader is coming up with brilliant solutions on the fly, rather than it coming in script form, because he's just that damned believable.
Don't get me wrong, SEAL Team has quite a bit of work to do to get over the hump of being a fairly predictable broadcast network drama. The plotting is formulaic, and doesn't break a lot of new ground in these earliest days, and considering certain segments of the daily news cycle are constantly tethered to terrorism stories, there's something a bit tiring about it all, especially when so many other military TV series have used the same kinds of enemy threats. Thankfully, the show's more jingoistic elements are fairly fleeting, even if the missions are more about how SEAL Team's main characters are affected, as opposed to offering development for the people they're tracking or saving. It does fit right at home with CBS' bread and butter, though, and I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if it's successful enough to inspire a spinoff down the road.
The creative minds behind SEAL Team inspire faith that this could indeed be a show with major longevity for CBS. It was created by Benjamin Cavell, who was a writer and producer for the sorely missed Justified, Homeland, and Sneaky Pete, and SEAL Team boasts an all-star producer and EP roster. There's his fellow Justified executive producers Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly, who also worked together on Elementary. Corrinne Marrian and Daniele Nathanson worked on Murder in the First together, and wrote episodes of CSI and CSI: NY, respectively. Also serving as EP and episode director is Christopher Chulack, best known for his Emmy-nominated work on ER. And there are many more drama-heavy folks involved as well.
Fitted into a timeslot between Survivor and Criminal Minds' newest seasons, SEAL Team is destined to become an early ratings winner. There's more than a good chance that some audience members will get hooked immediately, because it's a show that feels genuinely invested in its own storytelling, which can't be said for everything else debuting soon. And when it comes down to it, even without the believable relationships and the gripping suspense, it's still worth watching just to get Angel, er, Booth, er, David Boreanaz back on evening TV.