“Six,” which begins Wednesday on History Channel, is based on the work of the elite anti-terrorist force known as the Navy SEALs, and specifically its Team Six – the best of the best, the most secretive of the secret.
Walton Goggins, from “Justified” and “Vice Principals” (and whose late substitution pushed the series’ debut into 2017), plays team leader Richard Taggart. We meet him and his crew — Graves (Barry Sloane), Ortiz (Juan-Pablo Raba) and Caulder (Kyle Schmid), most notably — on a mission in Afghanistan. Things go sideways. Two years later, suddenly, we are in Virginia Beach, where the SEALs await assignments – all but Taggart, now a drunk working private security in Lagos, Nigeria. (Flashbacks will later explain the why and wherefore.)
On what promises to be a routine babysitting job for a self-promoting American philanthropist — civilians, ugh — Taggart is taken hostage, along with a schoolteacher and her class of girls, by forces of Boko Haram. I think you know what happens next. (Yes, his old guys – now with new guy Chase, played by Edwin Hodge – go after him.) There are also Middle East terrorists lurking about, along with sympathetic Americans and Russians, just to touch on as many bases as possible.
The series was created by William Broyles Jr. and his son, David Broyles. The elder Broyles, a Vietnam War veteran, became a journalist and editor and eventually a screenwriter: He co-created “China Beach” for ABC and co-wrote Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13" and Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers” among other films; the younger Broyles served in Iraq and Afghanistan and has written or directed a few short films.
History calls this an “authentic portrayal” of the SEAL life, which for all I know it is; technical advisor Mitchell Hall, who has also worked on “Zero Dark Thirty,” is a retired SEAL; CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen consults on terrorism.
But it is also a television show, and it works like other TV shows and movies. Situations are invented; costumed actors read lines or run about with guns, and while the good guys may be reasonably expected to take some hits along the way, we watch with fair certainty that the villains — who are at best moderately complex and sometimes just targets to shoot — will be appropriately repaid. It is not “Homeland,” where the war on terror is a pretext to explore sometimes twisted characters. There are characters here, given characteristics, but what matters is the mission — and saluting the institution.
Each of the men has been given a special domestic situation, not incidental to their common troubles dealing with feelings and understanding women. (They are also united by beer and beards.)
Ortiz’s wife, Jackie (Nadine Velazquez), is going back to work, much to his annoyance, and he is a stranger to his children. (Finds daughter with a boy in her room. Boy: “I want you to know, Mr. Ortiz, that I respect your daughter as a woman.” Daughter: “I hate you, you’re ruining everything.”) Then there’s Caulder, who lives in a (fairly nice) shack by the beach, into whose life comes a trouble-making de-estranged 17-year-old daughter (Lindsley Register). And Graves and his missus, Lena (Brianne Davis) — whose shared Christianity the script makes a point of — are trying to start a family, with difficulty.
The actors do their best to put life into these scenes, but they are so brief and expository, given how much territory there is to cover, that they feel mostly manufactured. Still, action is action — and this action is well staged — and it’s reliably compelling to watch the good guys, with their night-vision goggles, special guns and ninja tread, going after the bad. If you wade even a little way into these waters, you may find yourself swimming the length of the pool, just to get to the other side.
When: 10 p.m. Wednesday
Rating: TV-MA-LSV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17 with advisories for coarse language, sex and violence)
Follow Robert Lloyd on Twitter @LATimesTVLloyd