By Scott Brown
Updated May 10, 2006 at 06:58 PM EDT

There’s a desert town teeming with big ideas, wide-eyed hopefuls, and broken dreams. It’s a place where today’s busboy, hat-check girl, or humble Shiite militia leader can be tomorrow’s superstar. It’s the dream factory they call… Baghdad.

Yesterday, we got word that HBO had put a new Iraq comedy into development. Today we learn there’s a drama on the way from Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions. (Two soldiers-of-fortune in postwar Iraq — sounds a bit Three Kings-y, no? Not that I’m complaining…)

Too soon? Not soon enough? Over There didn’t connect with viewers,but historically speaking, war can make good TV. Consider Vietnam andthe nuanced small-screen drama it spawned. (I speak, of course, of the The A-Team.) M*A*S*H proved that battlefield gallows humor can work on TV while the conflict in Vietnam was still raging. Of course, M*A*S*Hwas ostensibly about Korea. Mel’s show looks like it’s going to be setshortly after “the end of major combat operations” in Iraq, circa 2003.

This may seem like a rush, but I believe it’s entirely showdependent. Clearly, this new show is trying to leaven the grim drama ofIraq with traditional Hollywood adventure: These aren’t soldiers onpatrol, after all, or even Marines in the clinch. They’re a couple ofguys hunting up some kind of payday or McGuffin — the “realities onthe ground” will be thematic side dishes, not the main course, I’mguessing. The results will probably look less like a documentary andmore like, well, Three Kings. And I can imagine much worse scenarios than Three Kings: The Series.

This much is certain: Our movie metabolism has been sped up. In thiscamera-clogged, info-glutted new paradigm, events go from reality toReality to Reality-based Fiction with such swiftness, the stages blurinto one another. There’s danger there, but also opportunity. Once, wehad to wait a generation to reflect on ourselves, our behavior ascitizens, as a nation. The way things are going, we may not have thatkind of time anymore.

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