Making The Cut
You Aint Gonna Survive
Got It From My Momma
Not On My Watch
Falling Down Wells
Are You All In?
Preparing For Battle
Through The Rain
Playing out as a blend of reality TV and sport documentary, 12 episode series Marching Orders is an interesting but largely over-dramatised account of one college band’s journey to performing a prestigious show at half-time during American Football. Playing on the usual conventions you’d expect in reality TV, there’s plenty of over-dramatised confrontations, set-backs, mini-montages and more throughout the show’s run time as the series builds toward a climactic, triumphant finale that lacks the excitement to make it worth the wait.
The series begins with a brief overview of the 14k Dance Squad, Band Camp and the Sophisticat Flag Corp before switching periodically between the three different groups as they prepare for the upcoming season and half-time shows to showcase their talent. With competition fierce and the training gruelling and difficult, Marching Orders takes us through the process each of the three groups take to select their chosen members and the hours of practice needed to pull off their 12 minute show intended to entertain thousands of Americans. All of these play out separately until late on when they blend together as the focus shifts from training to the big day itself. The series ends with one final 9 minute episode to show all this hard work in action.
Although advertised as a documentary, Marching Orders is much more closely aligned to a Reality TV series complete with an array of face to face interviews, stock hip-hop beats and forced, dramatised confrontations between members of the group. It’s a shame too as there is some good material here but it feels wasted in such a passive, cliched format. Anyone unfamiliar with the marching bands during half-time shows in American sports will be hard pressed to find some good educational content here. There’s no explanation for how the phenomenon started, who the best groups are, how the ordinary American views these entertainment pieces and just what sort of future prospects this could lead to for the students. If you can go into this knowing and expecting prime-time reality TV and not a documentary then you might find some entertainment here but it all feels very lackadaisical and forced for much of the run-time.
When it comes to the crowded field of reality TV, Marching Orders just doesn’t do enough to stand out from the plethora of other shows out there that have successfully combined a sport with reality TV in a compelling and entertaining way. WWE’s original Tough Enough series springs to mind as does Last Chance U and even these offerings manage to at least educate while providing entertainment. Compared to those offerings, Marching Orders comes up short. The contrived bursts of drama actually detract from the show and feel like a cheap way to spark up some extra tension. There is some enjoyment to be had here but it’s fleeting at best. As a reality TV offering the series is mediocre at best and a lack of educational content makes Marching Orders a poor documentary as well. The short episode length is a plus and the series zips by at a frantic pace but aside from that, this is unlikely to be a series you’ll return to anytime soon.