David Boreanaz, formerly of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” and “Bones” is back this season as the superstar leader of an elite Navy SEAL team. Boreanaz’s man’s man swagger is a perfect fit for his latest TV character, Jason Hayes, a military hero who puts his team and his country before his family. It’s a choice that has personal consequences of course, and Jason’s issues, complicated by the death of his friend during a mission, are a central part of the show’s plot. In Boreanaz’s hands, Jason is gruff and emotionally shut-off but he’s also a guy that other guys unquestioningly follow into battle. That these battles are only mildly interesting is a credit to Boreanaz’s ability to carry “SEAL Team” beyond the slightly weak show that it is.
Much like History’s “Six,” “SEAL Team” moves between action in the field and action at home. It’s a device meant to humanize the characters and create suspense, as in: Will A, B or C character make it back alive (and on time) for his kid’s music recital or his baby’s birth? It’s not ineffective but it’s also not the most complex storytelling strategy.
Not every aspect of the plot settles for simplicity. In the second episode, the team discovers a group of sick Syrians left to fend for themselves in an abandoned hospital that is being used to manufacture chemical weapons. The mission is only to gather evidence. One member of the team is conflicted about the right course of action and points out that extracting the people will likely doom them to permanently live in refugee camps. The scene gets points for offering an atypical perspective. Also to its credit is the show’s patriotic ideology, which avoids overgeneralizing America’s enemies.
Jason’s answer to his fellow SEAL’s concern is that there’s not much honor in only looking after your own, which is a very Jason thing to say and one that Boreanaz delivers with wise leader-of-men solemnity. On the home front, Jason’s interactions are less wise and Boreanaz plays the character’s emotional distance and personal frustrations over his failing marriage in a believable way.
The rest of the team is Ray (Neil Brown Jr.), Sonny (A.J. Buckley) and Lisa (Toni Trucks), who handles logistics. Jessica Pare plays CIA analyst Mandy, who leads the team’s mission briefings. Pare, who was great as Megan Draper on “Mad Men,” is mostly stuck giving exposition. Hopefully, she will be given more to do as the series goes on. Rounding out the cast is Clay Spenser (Max Thieriot), a very confident SEAL eager to join Jason’s all-star team.
Boreanaz has a long record of hit shows and he does his job here, even if I prefer him playing a more charming and less broody character. There is nothing remarkable about “SEAL Team,” but if you enjoy a military procedural, there is also nothing to not recommend it.
“SEAL Team” is on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. EDT on CBS.
— Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing’” and the recently released “The American Television Critic.” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.