Channel surfers weary of summer’s retreat to reality TV idiocy expect relief from HBO’s risk-taking original programming. Generation Kill, a seven-part miniseries about a U.S. Marine platoon’s experience in the 2003 assault on Iraq, produced by The Wire’s creator, David Simon, upholds the network’s reputation for quality, and viewers will encounter a reality grittier than any singing, dancing, deal-making competition. Journalist Evan Wright, who wrote the original nonfiction book, and Eric Kocher, the series’ military advisor, break down how close Kill comes to capturing a war zone.
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“Recon marines are strange animals,” says Kocher, a former marine sergeant. “But this show really got it.” From the attitudes of the leathernecks necks to the sometimes incompetent commanders, few works have so accurately distilled just what it means to be a marine. “The racism, the hatred—this is what happens.”
Since Iraq is less than hospitable to film crews, Kill was filmed in Africa. The Namibian desert made a perfect Kuwait and southern Iraq, while South Africa subbed for the lush Iraqi interior. “It was so much like Iraq,” says Wright, “even the length of the grass was the same.”
The 1st Reconnaissance Battalion invaded Iraq with second-rate equipment they had to repair and reinforce with new armor, often on their own dime. “That’s how it is,” says Kocher. “If we got everything we wanted, we’d be the Army.”
“The series is brutal,” warns Wright, “but I still don’t think we captured the level of violence.” He hopes Kill will educate civilians. “The public thinks they know what the war looked like, but this series truly captures first contact—first contact that was often fatal.”