The ground is hot, the air is stifling, even the swirling dust burns. But USMC Staff Sgt. Sean Thomas Bunch, a veteran of the current conflict in Iraq, stands straight under the sun of a cloudless day, undeterred in his military fatigues, even as the sweat rolls off his shaved head. Unmoved by the 102 degree F. temperature, he is focused on the task at hand: giving technical advice on the set of a new drama. "Over There," which premières on basic cable July 27, is a new FX series about the Iraq war from TV veteran Steven Bochco.
"Getting it right," Sergeant Bunch says, is his only goal. "I just want to make sure that none of the soldiers who are over there fighting would be embarrassed by what we do."
Mr. Bochco, the series creator, points out that this will be the first TV drama about an ongoing conflict. Despite the daily flood of TV news images, he says, the show does not have a "ripped-from-the-headlines" format. It's about the individuals in the conflict.
"It always comes down to individual stories about courage, the failure of courage, making the right decisions, and how those decisions have an impact on everyone," he says, "even those at home."
More important, he says, "Over There" is not about politics. "The moment you take a political position, then you are providing answers, not questions," says the creator of such television milestones as "NYPD Blue," and "Hill Street Blues." Art, he adds, is about asking provocative questions, not providing answers - which half the audience would disagree with anyway. He hopes the show will get people to think about their assumptions. "I'd just like people to ask questions when they gather around the water cooler."
The show's casting choices reflect a determination to challenge stereotypes, says Omid Abtahi, an actor of Iranian and Arab descent, cast as an Arab-American who enlists in the Army in the aftermath of 9/11. "This was one of the most sought-after jobs for an Arab actor in this town because it's a positive role. And these days, nearly all the jobs for Arab actors are negative things like terrorists and militants," says Abtahi.