Tour of Duty is an American military drama television series based on events in the Vietnam War, broadcast on CBS.
The series ran for three seasons, from 24 September 1987 to 28 April 1990, for a total of 58 one-hour episodes. The show was created by Steve Duncan and L. Travis Clark and produced by Zev Braun.
The show follows an American infantry platoon on a tour of duty during the Vietnam War. It was the first television series to regularly show Americans in combat in South Vietnam and was one of several similarly themed series to be produced in the wake of the acclaimed Oliver Stone film Platoon (1986).
Tour of Duty examined the issues of politics, faith, teamwork, racism, suicide, fragging, terrorism, civilian deaths, sexuality, drug abuse, and how the lives of soldiers and civilians were permanently affected by the Vietnam War.
The first season began in 1967 and followed Bravo company’s second platoon, a standard light infantry platoon conducting “search and destroy” missions in Vietnam, under the command of 2nd Lieutenant (1st Lieutenant from the start of season 02) Myron Goldman (Stephen Caffrey) and Staff Sergeant (later Sergeant First Class) Zeke Anderson (Terence Knox). It was filmed on location in Hawaii at Schofield Barracks.
For the second and third seasons, the series was filmed around Los Angeles, California, to reduce the budget. The same locations, notably a small river with grass on one bank and woods on the other, were reused in a number of episodes. The old set of war comedy-drama television series M*A*S*H was also used for filming.
The change of location also led to a change in the show’s direction. Beginning in the second season, the platoon was relocated to a base near Saigon. Production staff interviewed in Vietnam Magazine said this change in premise doomed the series because it shifted from being a realistic chronicle about the life of an average combat infantryman to an action/romantic/drama show. CBS wanted female characters because ABC had premiered China Beach, a Vietnam Army Nurses drama, which was aimed directly at attracting more female viewers.
In Tour of Duty’s third season, the remaining female character was killed off, and the platoon was transferred to a SOG unit under the command of Colonel Brewster (played by Carl Weathers). The unit conducted covert operations in Vietnam and Cambodia which included a fictional version of the raid on Son Tay Prison. The show was cancelled at the end of this season due to falling ratings.
Guest stars included Lee Majors, James Hong, Mako, Kelly Hu, Angela Bassett, Ving Rhames, Melora Hardin, Everett McGill, Olivia d’Abo, David Alan Grier, Richard Brooks, and Michael Madsen.
- Terence Knox … Sgt. Clayton ‘Zeke’ Anderson.
- Stephen Caffrey … Lt. Myron Goldman.
- Tony Becker … Cpl. Daniel ‘Danny’ Percell.
- Miguel A. Núñez Jr. … Pvt. Marcus Taylor.
- Ramón Franco… Pvt. Alberto Ruiz.
- Stan Foster … SP4 Marvin Johnson.
- Dan Gauthier … Lt. John McKay.
- Eric Bruskotter … Pvt. Scott Baker.
- Joshua D. Maurer … Pvt. Roger Horn.
- John Dye … Pfc. Francis ‘Doc Hoc’ Hockenbury.
- Kim Delaney … Alex Devlin.
- Steve Akahoshi … Pvt. Randy ‘Doc’ Matsuda.
- Kevin Conroy … Capt. Rusty Wallace.
- Neal Hickerson … Sgt. Edwards.
- Carl Weathers … Col. Brewster.
The opening theme song was an abbreviated version of The Rolling Stones hit “Paint It, Black” that had featured in the end titles of the 1987 Vietnam War film Full Metal Jacket; this was removed for the US DVD release. The closing consisted of an instrumental, synthesized tune with a distinctive Asian sound mixed in with acoustic guitar; it was performed by Joseph Conlan, and was never released for public consumption other than in the series. That music was used as background music for most of the series. On the US release DVD most of the Vietnam War era popular music was replaced by instrumental bits to cover the blank spots of music.
All three seasons that have been released in the UK feature the complete original soundtrack, including “Paint It, Black”.
The show was known for its classic American rock soundtrack including Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendrix, and Jefferson Airplane. One first-season episode, “USO Down”, used “live” versions of “Wooly Bully”, and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” as performed by a USO band, the latter song being used also for ironic comment. The songs in this episode were retained in the DVD soundtracks. But for copyright reasons, the VHS and DVD soundtracks of the majority of episodes were replaced with soundalikes (the music played, but there were no voices) – a move which was widely protested by buyers, and resulted in a significantly lower sales volume for the third-season DVD set than for the first two.
In the Netherlands, amongst other European nations, a total number of seven albums were released, containing most of the songs featured on the show. As a result, “Paint It, Black” was re-released as a single, again hitting the number 1 position in the Dutch top 40 popchart in May 1990.
The Original Soundtrack Albums
The Tour of Duty television series soundtrack was released by CBS on Columbia Records as four different compilation albums during 1988 and 1989. The original albums are now out of print.
Compilation Soundtrack CDs
In 1992, Sony Music released a compilation CD titled The Best of ‘Tour of Duty’. It contains only twenty of the songs featured in the four original Tour of Duty Soundtrack albums.
Sony Pictures released all 3 seasons in the USA for the very first time in 2004-2005. All original music was replaced with sound-alike versions. These releases have been discontinued and are out of print.
On 27 August 2013, it was announced that Mill Creek Entertainment had acquired the rights to various television series from the Sony Pictures library including Tour of Duty. They subsequently re-released the first season on DVD on 16 September 2014.
On 21 April 2015, Mill Creek released a budget priced complete series set, an eleven-disc set featuring all 58 episodes of the series.
On 07 November 2011 Fabulous Films (licensed from Fremantle Home Entertainment) in the United Kingdom released the complete first season as a region 2 PAL boxed set. This release has improved sound and picture quality and the complete original soundtrack, including “Paint It, Black”. The release consists of 5 DVDs covering all 21 episodes. The fifth disc contains extras including hundreds of behind the scenes stills and images and a brand new documentary that runs for 55 minutes. Fabulous Films filmed a series of interviews in Los Angeles in July 2011 with seven of the key cast: Terence Knox, Joshua D. Maurer, Steve Akahoshi, Tony Becker, Eric Bruskotter, Kevin Conroy and Miguel A. Núñez Jr. and key members of the production crew that included Zev Braun (producer) Bill L. Norton (writer/director), Steve Smith (writer/producer), Steve Duncan (creator) and Paul Sinor (military advisor). Additional documentaries are being produced for the season 2 and 3 releases.
The complete second season was released on 14 May 2012 in the UK. Featuring a brand new making of documentary ‘The Story of Tour Of Duty’ Part 2 (30 mins) featuring Cast and Crew, Character Biographies, Original Cast Biographies, Original Crew Biographies, Action Stills, Behind The Scenes Stills, Publicity Stills, Synopses and Glossary of Tour of Duty Military Terms.
On 26 November 2012, Fabulous released the complete third season on DVD in the UK, along with the complete series set which was released simultaneously. The third instalment of the documentary features Dan Gauthier (1st Lieutenant Johnny McKay).
The series won an Emmy Award in 1988 for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Series (for “Under Siege”), and it was nominated again in 1989 and 1990.
- Emmy Award nominations:
- 1989: Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Series (for “I Wish it Could Rain”).
- 1990: Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Series (for “And Make Death Proud to Take Us”).
- Eddie Award nominations:
- 1988: Best Edited Episode from a Television Series (for the pilot episode).
- The series won an Emmy Award in 1988 for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Series, and it was nominated again in 1989 and 1990.
Tour of Duty Series
Production & Filming Details
- Bill Norton … (10 episodes, 1987-1989).
- Jim Johnston … (9 episodes, 1987-1990).
- Stephen L. Posey … (8 episodes, 1988-1990).
- Bradford May … (4 episodes, 1989-1990).
- Randy Roberts … (3 episodes, 1987-1989).
- Charles Correll … (3 episodes, 1988-1989).
- George Kaczender … (3 episodes, 1989-1990).
- Edwin Sherin … (3 episodes, 1989).
- Aaron Lipstadt … (2 episodes, 1987).
- Reynaldo Villalobos … (2 episodes, 1987).
- Helaine Head … (2 episodes, 1989).
- James L. Conway … (1 episode, 1988).
- Bill Duke … (1 episode, 1988).
- Robert Iscove … (1 episode, 1988).
- Ronald L. Schwary … (1 episode, 1988).
- Paul Lynch … (1 episode, 1989).
- Tommy Lee Wallace … (1 episode, 1989).
- Stephen Caffrey … (1 episode, 1990).
- James A. Contner … (1 episode, 1990).
- Steve Dubin … (1 episode, 1990).
- Zev Braun … executive producer (58 episodes, 1987-1990).
- Brian Herskowitz … associate producer / assistant producer (37 episodes, 1989-1990).
- Vahan Moosekian … coordinating producer / producer / associate producer (36 episodes, 1987-1989).
- Rick Husky … supervising producer / co-executive producer (35 episodes, 1987-1989).
- Steven Smith … co-producer (22 episodes, 1988-1989).
- Bill Norton … co-executive producer (21 episodes, 1987-1988).
- Ronald L. Schwary … producer (21 episodes, 1987-1988).
- Robert Bielak … co-producer (21 episodes, 1989-1990).
- Dennis Cooper … co-executive producer / co-producer (15 episodes, 1989).
- James A. Westman … producer (15 episodes, 1989).
- Steve Bello … co-producer (13 episodes, 1987-1988).
- J. Daniel Nichols … associate producer (1 episode, 1987).
- L. Travis Clark … (creator) (58 episodes, 1987-1990).
- Steve Duncan … (creator) (58 episodes, 1987-1990).
- Jerry Patrick Brown … (19 episodes, 1989-1990).
- Elia Katz … (13 episodes, 1989).
- Steven Smith … (10 episodes, 1987-1989).
- Rick Husky … (9 episodes, 1987-1989).
- Dennis Cooper … (7 episodes, 1989).
- David Kemper … (6 episodes, 1989-1990).
- Carol Mendelsohn … (5 episodes, 1989-1990).
- Robert Burns Clark … (4 episodes, 1988-1989).
- Robert Bielak … (4 episodes) (4 episodes, 1989-1990).
- Bill Norton … (3 episodes, 1987).
- Bruce Reisman … (3 episodes, 1988-1989).
- Steve Bello … (2 episodes, 1987-1988).
- David Wyles … (2 episodes, 1987-1988).
- Brad Radnitz … (1 episode, 1987).
- Jim Beaver … (1 episode, 1988).
- Christian Darren … (1 episode, 1988).
- Dennis Foley … (1 episode, 1988).
- David Hume Kennerly … (1 episode, 1988).
- Peter Lubliner … (1 episode, 1988).
- Cynthia Darnell … (1 episode, 1989).
- Brian Herskowitz … (1 episode, 1989).
- James Kearns … (1 episode, 1989).
- W.K. Scott Meyer … (1 episode, 1989).
- David Ehrman … (1 episode, 1990).
- Jim Johnston … (1 episode, 1990).
- Music: Joseph Conlan.
- Stephen L. Posey … (29 episodes, 1987-1989).
- Alan Caso … (27 episodes, 1989-1990).
- Peter Smokler … (2 episodes, 1988).
- Bob Moore … (unknown episodes).
- John Duffy … (13 episodes, 1987-1989).
- Stephen Michael … (12 episodes, 1987-1989).
- Thomas Petersen … (9 episodes, 1988-1990).
- Michael Ripps … (7 episodes, 1987-1989).
- Ellen Ring Jacobson … (6 episodes, 1989-1990).
- Kim Secrist … (5 episodes, 1987-1988).
- Robert L. Sinise … (2 episodes, 1989-1990).
- Douglas Ibold … (1 episode, 1987).
- Herbert H. Dow … (unknown episodes).
- Production: Braun Entertainment Group, New World Television, and New World International.
- Distributor(s): CBS.
- Release Date: 24 September 1987 to 28 April 1990.
- Running Time: 47 minutes (per episode).
- Rating: TV-14/15.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.