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Boot Camp: Welcome, Canadian Conquerors!

It's a good thing the so-called "recruits" in Fox's new series Boot Camp are not actually defending our country. If they were, we'd have bloodthirsty Canadians pouring through Minnesota, Washington and Alaska, their plutonium-powered hockey sticks slicing through the this batch of reality show toy soldiers like a John Deere through a nest of gophers.

The title of the show is self-explanatory. Sixteen contestants are plunged into simulated military basic training at the hands of four real ex-Marine drill instructors. Each week the squad is assigned a "combat mission" and a randomly-selected squad leader that is supposed to guide their fellow contestants through the challenge. At the end of every episode, one person in the squad is voted out and that person gets to choose someone else to leave with them. The missions feature rewards such as earning an extra hour of sleep and a successful attempt gives the squad leader immunity from being voted out.

The contestants are mostly young and good-looking with the token 50-year old and a couple of not-so attractive ones that make up for their lack of physical gifts with "heart," whatever the hell that is. Not surprisingly, sports bras are an integral part of the female battle dress uniform, while the men seem to think their best defense against enemy attack is removing their shirts.

Fox has found itself a nice diverse bunch of recruits, all very chatty and willing to share their feelings. Of course, perhaps one or two of the entire group might be able to survive real military life. In the reserves. As a REMF logistics officer. In France.

Sure, Fox tries to make a big deal about how realistic Boot Camp is. The network even created its own training site in Florida complete with alligator-infested lake, heavy woods, chow hall and "Dismissal Hill" where the contestants gather to vote one another off the show. The fact is, however, that these are the nicest drill instructors in the world. Sure, they spend most of the time screaming at the contestants, but they don't swear, they don't threaten and they spend down time telling the camera that they're actually nice people once you get to know them.

There were a couple of high points in the premiere. One of the recruits, Yaney, is a balloon sculptor in real life. Lord knows why, but he brought some of his balloons with him. When the DIs found out that he makes inflatable animals for a living, they forced him to make one for them. Whether he was nervous or just a lousy sculptor, we'll never know, but the result was some kind of orange lizard with a glandular problem. Yaney called it a poodle. The drill instructor ate it.

Some of the other recruits include Haar, a female pig farmer who is the kind of dead weight that NBC makes sappy Movies of the Week about. She has "heart," "guts," "gumption," "gusto," and a "never-say-die" attitude. She's also an anchor that drags down everyone else in the squad. You'd think chasing pigs around all day would give her some semblance of physical fitness but it took her over ten minutes to run three-quarters of a mile and she ended up pulling a groin muscle. She must have some pretty slow pigs.

The first casualty on the show was Park, an entirely competent sort of fellow who was one of the main reasons the squad was able to complete its first mission successfully. He did this by taking charge and making sure people did things the right way. So, of course, the other recruits hated him.

Park's ouster was engineered by Meyer, a pretty-boy urban planner who has firmly entrenched himself as show weasel. Now I'm not going to go and do something stupid like accuse of the producers of Boot Camp of fraud, but Meyer is such a bad seed he was either extensively coached or he is, in fact, the anti-Christ. Meyer is the slacker who never does anything right, refuses to obey orders and schemes to get the decent recruits kicked out. He spends his tell-all moments reveling in his villainous machinations and is so over-the-top that you're waiting for him to twirl a handlebar mustache and cackle about tying Penelope to the railroad tracks.

Hey producers, if you use a plant next time, try to get a better actor.

Meyer's allies in his quest to destroy the world are the females of Boot Camp who, in just one hour of television, managed to set the struggle for women in combat back fifty years. Any feminists who caught the premiere must be pulling their hair out at the way the Boot Camp women are shaping up: weak, whiny complainers who don't care about winning as long as they enjoy the company of their friends.

Early on, it was obvious Meyer was a troublemaker and the early front-runner for dismissal. Along with his only male ally, he cooked up a plan to make a phony speech about deadbeat parents who abandoned him, leaving him without the concept of discipline. He even managed a few crocodile tears. While the rest of the men were rolling their eyes, the women came over to comfort him. Then, despite winning the challenge with ease, most of the females banded together to complain that Park was "being mean." Haar was the only exception, proving that pig farming endows one with more common sense than physical fitness.

I don't know if the women actually are spineless twits or if some creative editing on the producers' part has set up this battle of the sexes, but the real females of the U.S. Armed Forces must have been taking aim with their M-16s.

If you like reality shows, and if so please refrain from procreating, you'll probably like Boot Camp. There are hot babes, sweaty shirtless guys, evil slackers, plenty of screaming and lots of heartfelt talking about emotions in a place where emotions don't matter. But Fox doesn't seem to care about the truth in advertising laws -- you tune in to Boot Camp thinking you're going to get "Full Metal Jacket" and instead end up with Gomer Pyle.


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