Generation Kill by Paul Schiraldi/HBO
I've already officially raved about HBO's rivetingly realistic Iraq War miniseries Generation Kill, which begins its seven-week run tonight (9 pm/ET). Most every other critic I know is on board as well. But for David Simon, the revered creator of The Wire who helped shape journalist Evan Wright's book into a you-are-there road trip with a unit of Marines that's alternately hilarious and harrowing, the audience he was most interested in impressing were those in uniform.

Last Wednesday night, on the eve of HBO's presentation to TV critics at the ongoing TCA press tour, the producers and cast screened part of the miniseries for several hundred Marines at the Southern California base of Camp Pendleton. "The screening at Pendleton last night was probably the one that we cared about," Simon said. "That was one, I think, we were all a little bit terrified of." To which Wright, who was embedded with the troops on assignment for Rolling Stone, added: "It was [bleep]ing awesome. That audience totally got exactly what David and Ed [Burns] and I were all doing on this project. They laughed at all the right jokes and they understood the gravity of scenes. And it was for me personally, having started down this road a few years ago, it was the most gratifying moment of the whole production to see these guys laughing and nodding their heads with recognition, especially as controversial as the work was in some quarters."

"They laughed at parts that regular people don't laugh at, you know, and it got quiet at the combat sequences," said Simon.

Technical adviser Eric Kocher, who served in the First Recon Battalion and appears on screen in the miniseries, said what he heard most often was that "the dialogue is excellent. It hits exactly the way Marines talk, and then the atmosphere is visually what you see, what you hear in the background. Everything is it. It hits Iraq."

As I noted in my own review, Generation Kill often feels more like journalism than drama. It's raunchy and irreverent, and yet in its authenticity and attention to detail, it honors the troops by keeping it real. I can't recommend it highly enough.