September 28, 1987 12:00 PM

CBS (Thurs., Sept. 24, 8 p.m. ET)


John Wayne would be proud. In Tour of Duty, CBS does what he tried to do 19 years ago in The Green Berets: make Vietnam look like World War II, a simple war. Tour has every cliché from every battle epic ever made. The Sarge (Terence Knox) heads to the front playing a harmonica. After the battle he looks at a body, shakes his head and says, “He was a good man.” The Cap’n nods: “They were all good men.” The Sarge recruits fresh soldiers. “Are you a survivor?” he demands. “Damned straight,” one says and later vows: “Nobody’s gonna kill Clyde Lawrence.” That’s half the dialogue. The rest comes from rocket launchers, napalm bombs and helicopter blades. But like John Wayne, CBS has one nagging problem that prevents Tour from looking like The Sands of Iwo Jima: Vietnam was not a popular war. So CBS gives the controversy token acknowledgment. A gung-ho grunt waves his flag: “I don’t think patriotism’s something to laugh about, Sarge.” And a peacenik gets seven seconds to sum up the antiwar movement: “It’s an unjust war. I mean, America’s propping up a corrupt dictatorship. I won’t fight for that.” The Sarge tells him: “You will fight.” Sure enough, at the end the peacenik is made to kill to save himself and his pals. “This war’s wrong,” the former peacenik says. And the Sarge replies: “Maybe, but that’s not the point.” Then what the hell is the point, other than ratings points? Tour ignores all the hard lessons learned from Vietnam, on every side of the controversy, and tries instead to exploit Platoon’s popularity and growing sympathy for Vietnam vets with a simple-minded, wrong-headed, revisionist action series that insults the intelligence of the nation. Even Rambo has more passion and brains and better acting than this.

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