Published on June 30th, 2011 | by Chris


Tour of Duty: Pilot (1987)

I just started watching the 1987 CBS TV show, "Tour of Duty" again, thanks to Netflix.

I've only (re)seen the pilot, but man, even watching that again brought back some memories.  I would have to say that this show is one of the things that made me a fan of the war movie genre.

Granted, it was an attempt on CBS' part to "cash in" on the success of Platoon, Rambo, Full Metal Jacket, Missing in Action, and some of the other Vietnam movies that were coming out at the time.  My dad (who was an Air Force weapons tech and mechanic in Thailand during the war) and I didn't miss an episode.  But you know what?  It didn't suck.

It revolves around a company led by Sgt. "Zeke" Anderson (Terrence Knox) and Lt. Goldman (Stephen Caffrey), but that's not all.  The platoon is, predictably for TV, made up of an ethnically and culturally diverse bunch.  (Some might even throw the word "token" around.)  But where normally this would be so obvious, it actually works in their favor, as it allows them to bring up issue after issue surrounding the war, the times, and the guys who were in it.

Even in the pilot, they manage to pull no punches when it comes to the politics, emotion, action, and timbre for the remainder of the show.  Production was top notch as well as writing.  Also granted, that they were extremely limited in what they could do, given the prime-time TV slot this show occupied.

One thing I have to gripe about, though, is the decision by CBS, or whoever released these DVD's to not foot the bill to use the original 1960's music that was an inherent part of the show.  Even the opening theme of The Rolling Stones' "Paint It, Black" has been replaced by the closing credits music, and it just isn't the same.  It set the tone for the show, both "in time," lyrically, AND musically.  Ditto at least two other times that I noticed that music had been replaced with some of those "not quite right" facsimiles, (I think) a song by The Kinks during the volleyball scene and most-terribly and unforgivable, Jimi Hendrix' "Machine Gun" during the truck scene.  How could you!?

The rest of the soundtrack is synthesized 80's standard, but it actually isn't bad at all.

I'll post up a review of season one (and a final rating) when I'm done with it.  After revisiting the pilot episode, I can't wait for the rest.

Here's the current opening music, which was (and still is) the end credits music.  Run both of these videos concurrently, and mute the second one.

And the original opening sequence. (Un-mute it now!) You tell me! :

Tour of Duty - The Complete First Season Tour of Duty - The Complete First Season
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The first television series to depict the American soldier in combat during the Vietnam War, producer Zev Braun's Emmy-nominated Tour of Duty earned critical acclaim during its three-season run. Judging by the number of Internet sites devoted to the program, it also remains a fan favorite more than a decade after its 1989 cancellation; said fans should be pleased with this five-disc set, which compiles the entire 1987 debut season in a slightly altered format...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Brand: Knox
Manufacturer: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Original Release Date:
  • Terence Knox
  • Stephen Caffrey
  • Joshua Maurer
  • Steve Akahoshi
  • Tony Becker


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About the Author

I’ve been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I’ve been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.

2 Responses to Tour of Duty: Pilot (1987)

  1. the war movie buff says:

    Thanks for the reminder that it is available. (Thank God for Net Flix.) I watched it live as a college kid and have very fond memories. It was one of those shows you knew would be cancelled, so you enjoyed it while it lasted.

  2. paul pisano says:

    i own the entire series on dvd. sadly the prints used for the dvd leave much to desire. most of the original music has also been replaced.

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