A specialist army unit, a barking boss, a female soldier out to prove she's tougher than the blokes, a kindly padre, a war on foreign ground - all wrapped up as a sitcom, or rather, comedy/drama. Bluestone 42 (UKTV, Thursdays, 9.25pm) is British but it sounds awfully like a M*A*S*H for a new generation.
Anyone hoping so will probably be disappointed. I was just glad there was no Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan who, in addition to being tougher than the blokes, had a voice that could have caused incoming helicopters to drop from the skies - and caused me to flee from the room.
There is a Hot Lips, but she is the padre, Mary, who is blonde and pretty and so will be hit upon the moment she arrives at the Bluestone 42 base in Afghanistan. She refuses to sleep with base boss, Captain Nick, despite his deployment of the sob story he uses to get women to jump into his army issue sleeping bag. It's a harrowing tale, and true; it just didn't happen to him. It happened to a mate of his. Nick can't understand what her problem is. "The only thing sexier than a man with a gun who shoots people is a man with a gun who doesn't shoot people. I've got a gun. I haven't shot anyone. Well, hardly anyone."
Nick is the bomb disposal expert. He puts his life on the line every day. Except when the robot - named Arthur by the tougher-than-the-blokes soldier, Bird - the other bomb disposal expert, does it instead. The robot is blown up. That could have been him. Mary still won't sleep with him. "That's not very Christian," said one his troops. "Thank you," said Nick.
Nick is a bit of an idiot who thinks he's a bit of hot stuff. He is also lazy (he gets his underlings to do his reports and claims them as his own) and a bit of a whinger. He likes to be mates with his troops but likes to pull rank. He works as a character because he could be a boss in any office anywhere. He just happens to be the boss of a bomb disposal unit.
Bluestone is written by a couple of the Miranda writers and the laughs, like those in Miranda, are not particularly clever and rather silly and quite old-fashioned. They are rude enough, and of the tone you would expect from a bunch of army jokes (masturbation, penis jokes, whoah, girls in showers jokes, which was a long-running M*A*S*H gag) but you would have to be a really old-fashioned padre to be offended by them.
I'm not sure what the drama bit is. Some idiot visiting American army hot shot got his head blown off in the first episode, but he asked for it. He took his helmet off but his real act of stupidity was going about boring people with his stories: "When I was I was in Fallujah." Or maybe being an American tough guy did it for him. Nobody here is really a tough guy, not even the tiny tough lady soldier. They're all rather bumbling and sweet, a bit like Miranda, and thankfully nothing like Hot Lips Houlihan.