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By focusing only on gunfire and explosions, TBS's "War Games" misses its mark. 

A Losing Battle

If you've ever worn a military uniform, you already know what war games are like. And depending on when you wore that uniform, you may even know what real war is like.

But if you've never snapped a salute or returned one, you might think that TBS's two-hour "War Games" would give you a taste of what it's like to train for combat.

Not so.

"War Games" is merely eye candy — laced heavily with testosterone.

You can probably find something more authentically educational at your local video arcade.

Each of the services has its own war games, and "War Games" looks at four — the Army's JRTC (Joint Readiness Training Center), the Navy's Wolf Hunt, the Air Force's Red Flag and the Marines' CAX (Combined Armed Exercises).

In the 11-day JRTC, Army troops are assigned the task of rescuing a town and its residents from hostile forces. It's an exercise in urban warfare conducted in a fake town built from scratch just for training purposes by the Army. In Wolf Hunt, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft must hunt down and kill enemy submarines before they can sink a U.S. aircraft carrier. In Red Flag, the task for the Air Force is to engage enemy planes and shoot them down, then bomb an enemy airfield. And in CAX, Marines must assault and occupy enemy-held territory, then defend it against a counterattack.

But whether it's because the military brass wouldn't allow enough access, or because the producers of "War Games" just didn't want to shoot anything but the flashiest action, you won't learn much from "War Games." The program's whole two hours is filled with nothing but the money-shots: gunfire and explosions.

If you watched any of the coverage of the Gulf War, you probably saw — and learned — a lot more than you'll learn from "War Games."

It's clear where "War Games" is headed the moment the program's host makes his first appearance. He's Howie Long, a television football analyst, and his style betrays his background. It's the equivalent of "first down and two submarines to go."

And that's a shame, because somewhere amidst all of the mindless flare and sizzle of "War Games" there just might be a decent documentary. War games, by their nature, are serious, dangerous business: CAX, for example, involves thousands of Marines and live-fire exercises.

But "War Games" never gives much of an indication of the planning, the preparation, the tactics, the strategy or the execution involved in training to meet the enemy. There's an art to underestimating your audience, and the producers of "War Games" seem to have perfected it.

And here's the worst part: TBS is thinking of turning this drivel into a series.

If I were still wearing a uniform, I'd be irritated and
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