By Gillian Flynn
April 25, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
The Unit: Michael Yarish
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My living room smells of gym socks, superaction sweat, and…wait, is that Stetson, the legendary fragrance of the American West? It’s all my TV’s fault, which has grown incredibly macho in the past year: Every third show is about either men and their friendships (ABC’s What About Brian) or men and their guns (Fox’s 24, CBS’ NCIS). And sometimes by guns, I mean penises (FX’s Rescue Me, CBS’ Two and a Half Men).

This is not a complaint, except that it’s becoming difficult to pick which ”men and…” show to tune in to, and CBS’ highly watched military series The Unit just upped both the ante and the testosterone. Brought to us by the manly, well-credentialed duo of Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and playwright David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross), The Unit stars 24‘s ex-president Dennis Haysbert as Jonas Blane, the leader of a fantasy league of secretive and studly Army Rangers: In the pilot, they busted into a terrorist-held plane and, in a satisfying alternate 9/11 vision, beat the crap out of the villains. When not punching, shooting, or evading enemy capture, Blane and his team enjoy dropping bons mots like ”Sorry‘s what you tell your girlfriend when you finish too quick” (if you say you’re sorry at all, wuss!) and strutting around in slo-mo, a move for which I’ll admit I am a total sucker.

Doubt is not allowed in The Unit, another soothing post-9/11 daydream. Men follow orders, and… women, you ask? There are several spiny female characters, all unit spouses who interact infrequently with their husbands. These women aren’t docile base wives: Tiffy (Abby Brammell) is cheating on her husband with an Army colonel (Terminator 2‘s Robert Patrick), and Kim (Audrey Marie Anderson), the wife of newbie Bob (Felicity‘s Scott Foley), is a scrappy, defiant lefty. That, however, is where the nontraditionalism ends. Kim too often succumbs to crushing get-with-the-program lectures from Blane’s wife, Molly (I’ll Fly Away‘s awesome Regina Taylor). ”You say you love him — now are you brave enough to act on it?” Molly smolders while persuading Kim to shut up about leaving the unit. Later Molly avows: ”It’s our will that lets our men leave and walk into harm’s way.”

Passivity kicks ass! The Unit‘s women are anything but meek; they are, in fact, verbose fireballs, so it takes a while to realize how eerily undemanding they actually are. Consider Kim’s big bid for financial independence, which has her writing an ad for the local strip club: ”You wanna know what a woman wants? I won’t tell you… I spend all my time thinking about what you want.” So in an unrecognized bit of meta-ness, we have Kim purring a male fantasy — hot woman lives to please her fella — within another male fantasy: warm women offering optimal support and minimal nagging, while men shock, awe, and hoist a few beers together. It’s good to be the king.

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