Survivor Iraq? Future
Reality TV Program?

By Douglas Herman
Photos courtesy of Dahr Jamail

Contemporary American television of the early 21st century seems to fall into two distinct categories: reality-based programs that are actually false, fake, fraudulent or contrived--and equally fake dramas about crime scene investigators (CSI). As an avid TV viewer and critic of American culture, I suggest Hollywood honchos take full advantage of both trends for their next prime time hit. "Iraqi Soldier: Caught In The Crime Scene Crossfire."
The Show. Imagine a reality show composed of four distinct teams. We have a team of ten American soldiers, maybe even an entire squad. Good-looking young guys we can root for and identify with week after week, fighters like those seen on NBC's "The Contender," fellows with young families to feed. We have a second team of hopeful young Iraqis, former soldiers in Saddamís army, now unemployed and with families to feed. Call them Recruits, for that is what they are: unemployed guys hoping to get jobs as US trained policemen and thus support their hungry families. We have a third team of disgruntled Iraqis intent on forcing the US military out of Iraqi by any means necessary, even the most violent. Call them Insurgents. Many of them have no families to feed, having lost them to the war. Lastly, we have a fourth team of US and Iraqi medical personnel, picking up the pieces of the first three team members at the crime scene, examining the wreckage of war (See photo below), exhuming bodies, and uncovering evidence that allows the average American television viewer--safe and comfortable at home--to determine who caused the crime, while rooting for their favorite team members to survive long enough to claim a prize.
The Prize. What would be a fitting prize? Perhaps life itself, perhaps peace and brotherhoodóor perhaps even a million dollars. Unlike peace and justice, however, you need a valuable prize, something tangible like a million dollars, to keep the average American television viewer--safe and comfortable at home--curious and interested. Otherwise why would anyone watch?
The Stakes. Each team fights to survive. Naturally, each team member will love and support fellow team members, and when a team member is injured or diesóa distinct possibility every episodeóthe viewer must be able to either identify or sympathize with the loss, with the sadness, the devastation and human misery. Of course, the team with the most survivors after 13 episodes (with an option for 13 additional episodes) becomes the winner and claims the prize.
The Costumes. The favored US team of young warriors would be equipped with the latest body armor and weaponry (See photo above). Battle flags and regimental banners would become an essential part of team competition, much like those banners seen on the television show, "Survivor." The Iraqi police Recruits would be arrayed in more modest military garb, while the Insurgentsóor terroristsówould be concealed by headgear to mask their human emotions. Additionally, their slogans and banners would carry messages in an indecipherable language and their strategy of spreading chaos and mayhem would make them appear to be the epitome of evil, in a one-dimensional manner. The Crime Scene Investigators of the fourth team--doctors, medics, ambulance drivers, and nursesówould fly the red cross or red crescent, and be fitted in garments, often bloodstained, that would allow the average American viewer--safe and comfortable at home--to appreciate the effort each team member gives to survive.
The Challenges. The US team seeks to find and destroy the Insurgent team while protecting the Recruits. Insurgents hope to strike at the powerful US team by destroying or diminishing Recruits. Challenges would include but not be limited to: house-to-house searches, bomb squad deployment, demolition of weapon caches, convoys and routine patrols, (See photo of armored patrol) suspect arrests, and prisoner transports. Insurgents would seek to detonate improved explosive devices (IEDs), kidnap recruits, ambush convoys and shell the Green Zone. Each side would employ extensive use of propaganda. Camera crews would follow the intricacies of prisoner arrests by the US team, for example, and suicide bomb construction by the Insurgents. Additionally, a camera crew would follow the less gruesome aspects of the Iraqi crime scene investigation. No need to delve too deeply into the causes or effects of the conflict, however.
The Human Element. Portions of each episode would focus on the human aspect of various team members. US soldiers might be shown in flashbacks with their families, enjoying the love of little children and tender moments with spouses. Interviews with admiring siblings, lingering shots of toddlers, footage from home movies that portrays emotional or heartfelt moments and tearful remembrances from family members would be used for maximum effect. Additionally, glimpses of the Iraqi Recruits might include shots of family celebrations or the vocal support of parents, teachers and family members, implying hope for the future. Lastly, brief f ootage of Insurgents might even hint at the human side of these troubled souls.
The Pilot Episode. The first, hour-long show should introduce us to the US team and allow the viewer to identify or embrace each individual. Remember, fan favoritism often begins in episode one. Who will survive among these young, good-looking soldiers, certainly should be the underlying question in the viewerís mind. Ideally, a wide range of cultural types is preferred among the US soldiers, to attain the largest possible segment of American viewers. Not so important for the Recruits, however, and even less so with the Insurgents, is any individual or emotional diversity. By contrast, the Crime Scene Investigators should be a sympathetic cross section of Americans, with a smattering of non-threatening Iraqis thrown into the mix, perhaps in a supporting role. Following a number of challenges, the climactic scenes of the pilot episode should show some violent confrontation that eliminates at least one member of the four teams. The average American viewer--safe and comfortable at home--should be surprised but not alarmed, shocked but not repulsed, saddened but not outraged, and of course, compelled to watch again.
The Sponsors. Naturally, Humvee seems to a natural choice, but Halliburton, Exxon and Shell should also be contacted.
Douglas Herman is a USAF veteran who once wrote, directed and produced a 16 episode TV public access cable TV program for Adelphia. Contact him at



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