NBC (Sun., Sept. 11, 9 p.m. ET)
Maybe ABC just beat them to the punch with China Beach. Maybe that’s why NBC didn’t pick up this promising pilot of a Vietnam series for fall. Shooter is about photographers in the war—wise-ass shutter snappers who will risk their lives for the shot of a lifetime. “We’re supposed to nearly get killed—that’s our job,” says Jeffrey Nordling, an unknown who stars as a news photog. He rooms with Alan (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) Ruck in a Saigon apartment that has a hole in the wall from a rocket. “Makes a statement, don’t you think?” Ruck argues. “I mean, it really says war.” In their time off, they fight over Helen Hunt as Nordling’s former fiancée. And at work—at war, that is—they take pictures of real soldiers, including Steven Ford, President Jerry’s boy. (Producer David Hume Kennerly, a Vietnam lensman himself, was official photographer in the Ford White House.) Shooter is one of the better Vietnam shows. Unlike Tour of Duty, it doesn’t try to explain away the war in 10 easy sentiments. Like China Beach, it turns absurd or comic instead. This show deals with death—not with buckets of bullets and blood but with a strange fortune-teller who reads chicken entrails for a superstitious photographer. The script is occasionally cartoonish (especially when the soldiers go on R&R in a Bangkok brothel). But on the whole, the writing is imaginative, the cast top-of-the-line and the location photography in Thailand impressive. There is room for two Vietnam shows on the air. China Beach is one and this should be the other—not Tour of Duty.