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Brotherhood! Intrigue! Dark Humor! Boom! Best Military TV Shows of All Time

Nothing makes more compelling entertainment than television series revolving around military operations. Victory, defeat, saved lives, fallen soldiers, family angst, love, hate, tears, and laughter – all these factors made these iconic shows hits that crossed all political and social sectors of society.

Band of Brothers

This 2001 American war miniseries dramatizes the history of “Easy” Company, part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. From early jump training in the United States through major operations in Europe, Japan’s surrender, and the end of the war, the events are based on Stephen Ambrose’s 1992 non-fiction book with the same title. The characters portrayed are based on members of Easy Company, many of which were interviewed at length for the show. Their recollections were used as preludes to each episode, and the men’s real identities were exposed in the finale.

M*A*S*H

Often hailed as the best military TV show of all times, M*A*S*H had an impressive 11-year run from 1972 through 1983. It was adapted from the smash hit 1970 movie of the same name, which was based on the 1968 novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, by Richard Hooker. The series followed a team of doctors and support staff stationed at the “4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital” in Uijeongbu, South Korea during the Korean War. The unique blend of pain, pathos, and gallows humor made M*A*S*H one of the highest-rated shows in U.S. television history.

NCIS

Revolving around a fictional team of special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which investigates crimes involving the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, NCIS is the second longest-running scripted, non-animated U.S. primetime TV series currently airing, from 2003 to present. It is bested only by Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999–present), and is the 7th longest-running scripted U.S. primetime TV series on the whole. NCIS was originally referred to as Navy NCIS during season one until someone pointed out the redundancy: the “N” in “NCIS” stands for “Naval.”

The Unit

This show’s premise was to delve into the daily lives of Delta Force (referred to as “The Unit” on the show) operators during training and operational missions, as well as explore the impacts on their families back home. Based on show producer Eric L. Haney’s book, Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit, the action-drama television series had a strong yet small following, resulting in its cancellation on May 10, 2009, after only a 4-year run.

Hogan’s Heroes

During a tumultuous era when a war was anything but funny, Hogan’s Heroes dared to push the envelope off the table. For starters, the sitcom was set in a German prisoner of war (POW) camp during World War II, not a naturally humorous locale. The weekly stories focused on a Colonel coordinating an international crew of Allied prisoners running a Special Operations group from the camp, Luft Stalag 13, who repeatedly had to deal with the inept commandant of the camp and the clumsy sergeant-of-the-guard. The comedy was a surprise hit with millions of loyal fans and had an impressive 6-year run from 1965 to 1971.

— Cassie Damewood

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