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Rambo It Ain't

Mark Burnett isn't through disgracing prime time just yet. The creator of Survivor has a deal with the USA network to produce Combat Missions, a reality series that pits teams of military special operations troops in competitions designed to mimic their real-life work environment.

Although the Pentagon has banned active duty soldiers from participating, there are a lot of complaints about turning our proudest ex-warriors into little more than heavily armed Price is Right contestants. It's not like ex-soldiers don't sell their skills as mercenaries or security types all the time. The difference here is that mercenaries:

A) Use real bullets.
B) Don't have to time their assassinations around a Mountain Dew commercial.
C) Rarely, if ever, perform missions while a second-rate stand-up tags along.
D) Would kill David Letterman if he called them a "Parade of Losers."

There are also some people making noise about the dangers of such a series showcasing secret military tactics for all our enemies to see. Considering Burnett's pledge to make Combat Missions as realistic as possible, that might have been a concern.

Might have been, but isn't. As an ex-SAS officer, Burnett should know he has a real problem on his hands: the vast majority of special operations work would make for terrible television.

If Burnett wants to make a TV show out of true Green Berets, SEALs and Delta Force operators, he's going to find himself saddled with a show even more boring than Survivor. Unlike Sylvester Stallone, these guys have limited ammo and die when they get shot. They look forward to prolonged gunfights against superior firepower about as much as your average Carl's Jr. night manager would. In the real world, caution and meticulous planning are as crucial to special warfare troops as they are to mechanical engineers.

It's been a while since they made a TV show about engineers.

I'm betting Combat Missions isn't going to change that. In fact, I'll wager Burnett tries passing off American Gladiators stars as the real deal: "Now entering Automatic Weapons Arena, let's give it up for Lieutenant Pyro and Seargent Atlas! They'll be dueling with M203 grenade launchers and rolling the Giant Spheres of Death! While their managers, Terrific Trish and Honey Hot Heather, go at each other with K-Bar knives!"

"Don't forget to watch the premiere of the SFFL next weekend on TNN! Special Forces Football -- the way football was meant to be played! With bazookas!"

Should Burnett try and live up to his promise, here are some of the thrilling challenges you can look forward to seeing on a truly realistic Combat Missions:

Beach Recon: You'll be on the edge of your seat as a fire team of amphibious troops treads water for three hours, watching an empty beach. Two of them might swim in for soil samples.

HAHO Parachute Insertion: Thrill-seeking supermen hurl themselves out of a plane cruising 30,000 feet above enemy territory. Wearing full combat gear and oxygen masks, the operators launch themselves into free-fall, plummeting for almost several seconds. They then open their chutes and spend a good hour gliding gently to the ground.

Hostage Rescue: A squad blows open a door and storms a large room, killing all the bad guys and saving the innocents. Sounds great, except that it's done in three seconds. Preceeded by six to 48 hours of telephone negotiations.

Sniper O.P.: Watch as a nearly invisible sinper and his observer spend six hours crawling through 30 yards of brush then lie motionless for three days while waiting for a target. Occasionally they take a dump in a Ziploc bag.

Burnett's got another problem besides boring missions: no babes. Just a quick warning, Mark -- the first SEAL you try to squeeze into a bikini will snap your neck like a toothpick.

Now that would be reality television worth watching.


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