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''Fighter Pilot'' is military-style reality TV

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AFP: American Fighter Pilot
Lt. Todd Giggy: Monty Brinton/CBS

MTV has yet to announce ”The Real World: Kabul.” But the new CBS series ”AFP: American Fighter Pilot,” which debuts Friday at 8 p.m., is the closest TV has come to presenting an infotainment version of real warfare, rather than the kind waged by irritable housemates and fake tribesmen.

”AFP” uses all of reality TV’s tricks — slo-mo, jump cuts, melodramatic voice-overs — to lend suspense to three real-life Air Force officers’ efforts to endure a brutal training program and become elite F-15 fighter pilots. And if the scenario sounds like ”Top Gun,” that may be the point: Tony Scott, the movie’s producer, is an executive producer of this project, along with his brother, Oscar nominated director Ridley Scott (”Black Hawk Down”).

The series, which will run for eight episodes this season, follows three pilots-in-training — Lt. Todd Giggy, Capt. Mike Love, and Capt. Marcus Gregory — through 110 days of instruction at Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base. In the first hour, at least, the standout is Giggy, a cocky 24-year-old from Boulder, Colo., who immediately irks his superiors by showing up with dyed blond hair. ”We don’t carry briefcases, we don’t use umbrellas and we damn sure don’t color our hair,” an instructor informs us.

Gregory, a devout Christian, and Love, an easygoing family man with extensive flight experience, immediately thrive in the training program. But the swaggering Giggy starts screwing up right away, failing two flight simulation exercises in a row. (Even though the simulator looks like the world’s coolest video game — images are projected on all four walls of a closed-off room — the stakes are high.) The first episode ends with Giggy preparing to take his third simulation test, which he must pass or get thrown out of flight school.

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