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Showing 1-2 of 2 reviews(4 star). Show all reviews
on August 13, 2001
I am a TV fanatic. I admit it. I absolutely LOVE to sit down and watch great shows. A lot of people sit around and groan about the poor quality of television, but I'm not one of them. I can always find something that's watchable. Even better, I can always find something that's both truthful and exceptional.
Today there are a number of television shows that exceed my expectations. I'm still hooked on E.R., NYPD BLUE, ALLY McBEAL and FELICITY, not to mention newer gems like ONCE AND AGAIN, THE WEST WING and THAT's LIFE. These are shows that are not only well-written and acted, but that contain warmth, reality and overwhelming humanity. These are the types of shows that end up being my favorites.
I've always been a sucker for sentimental stuff, which explains my fondness for past faves THIRTYSOMETHING, MY SO-CALLED LIFE and PARTY OF 5. And this certainly explains my fondness for what remains in my opinion one of the all-time greatest TV shows ever, CHINA BEACH.
Created by John Sacret-Young and set at a fictional Army base during the Vietnam War, CHINA BEACH featured an ensemble cast of oftentimes colorful characters who were serving various duties during the war.
Colleen McMurphy (the superb Dana Delaney) was the weary nurse who found herself deeply effected by the patients that passed through the beds in the hospital where she served with the witty but troubled Dr. Dick (Robert Picardo). Laurette ("special guest star" Chloe Webb) was a singer looking for her big break while entertaining the troops, and Boonie (Brian Wimmer) was the hunky lifeguard who romanced her. Cherry (Nan Woods) was the innocent and naive donut dolly who came to Vietnam to find her MIA brother Rick, and later formed a close bond with sultry K.C. (Marg Helgenberger, in her career-defining role), a rather industrious business woman who set up camp on base as a prostitute and later a hair salon owner. Becker (Michael Boatman) was the distraught morgue attendee who'd seen his share of death but who always found a reason to go on. The whole operation was overseen by the fiery and indepedent Lyla (Concetta Tomei).
The cast was uniformly excellent, with stand-out (and Emmy winning) performances from Delaney and Helgenberger. The show was critically lauded, but unfortunately floundered in later seasons, despite episodes that were deeply touching and well-written.
A good number of the episodes, including the pilot, were directed with an even hand by Mimi Leder (later of DEEP IMPACT and PEACEMAKER fame), who never shied away from the violence of the war while tugging on the heart strings.
Many referred to CHINA BEACH as a "chick show," but those who did missed the point: that the Vietnam War was a point in history that effected everyone who was involved, regardless of their gender.
The pilot, the only episode available on video, introduces the characters and the basic set-up of the show. There are plenty of explosions and screaming, bloodied patients, but at the heart of this brilliant show was a sincere and frequently haunting look at the tragedy that was the Vietnam War. By focusing on the personal stories of its well-rounded and three-dimensional characters, the show brought the war into our homes and into our hearts in ways that many of the more male-oriented movies like PLATOON and HAMBURGER HILL weren't able to.
I've been sending Columbia House Video emails for years asking them to offer CHINA BEACH, but to no avail. If they ever do, you can be sure that I will own the entire collection. As it stands, I have the stellar two-hour pilot episode to remind me of this stand-out series, and also that there will ALWAYS be quality television, no matter what the nay-sayers say.
GRADE: A
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on September 26, 2005
The pilot to "China Beach" (and the series) is one of the best of its kind to come out of the post-Vietnam era regarding many aspects of that time; including the trauma, drama, suffering, brutality, futility, heroism, and dedication to serving the health professions during a conflict that nobody wanted.

In spite of knowing the total ostracism they would face when returning from serving in Vietnam, they gave totally of themselves to save as many of the broken bodies and souls as was humanly possible under totally horrendous conditions...a difficult theme to depict through any media.
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