Easy as Alpha, Bravo, Charlie: 'SEAL Team' returns for a fourth season

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Rachel Jones / TV Media
David Boreanaz in "SEAL Team"

David Boreanaz in "SEAL Team"

Fans of "SEAL Team" have been on edge while waiting to hear whether the popular series would return for a fourth season. They can breathe easy now, as the latest season premieres Wednesday, Dec. 2, on CBS. Fans will also be thrilled to learn that the premiere is actually a two-part special.

All of the main characters are expected to be returning for this season, at least initially. But, with a show as drama-filled as this one, you can never tell what will happen and to whom.

Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Jason Hayes (David Boreanaz, "Bones") will still be Bravo team's leader. Clay Spenser (Max Thieriot, "Bates Motel"), Ray Perry (Neil Brown Jr., "Straight Outta Compton," 2015) and Sonny Quinn (A.J. Buckley, "Supernatural") will also be back for all the excitement, not to mention female powerhouses Mandy Ellis (Jessica Paré, "Wicker Park," 2004) and Lisa Davis (Toni Trucks, "The Cost of Heaven," 2010). Dog lovers can also rejoice to hear that the team's trained canine member, Cerberus (Dita the Hair Missile Dog), will not only be back but is expected to be playing a major role in the premiere.

As far as early commentary from the show's production team has indicated, COVID-19 is not going to play a part in the plot this season. Showrunner Spencer Hudnut ("The Blacklist") has said that they wanted to finish storylines that the show had already started. They also wanted to give viewers an escape from their pandemic concerns and the stress of quarantine.

As with practically every other show in production this year, COVID-19 caused a filming delay. Because of this, "SEAL Team's" third season was cut unexpectedly short, only broadcasting 20 episodes. As of September, however, "SEAL Team" was filming once again, and the production of new episodes was well underway.

The downside is that, this time, Season 4 will consist of just 16 episodes. Unfortunately, shorter seasons during the pandemic seem to be the new normal. A typical full season schedule for "SEAL Team" was previously approximately 22 episodes long.

When we last saw the team, at the end of Season 3, Jason and Mandy were visiting a fallen informant's family and Ray had to lead Bravo Team on an urgent mission to uncover a terrorist leader. Davis had also revealed to the team that its new target is a blast from Jason's past.

In the Season 4 premiere, the team will continue the mission of seeking out the leader of a terrorist faction — the son of the terrorist taken down by Jason early in his career, winning him his current Bravo One position.

One of the many reasons the show is so popular with fans is that it does its best to realistically depict the pressures and operational stresses that the Bravo team faces. The show has cast and consults with more than 75 active-duty military veterans, which is an impressive undertaking. Tyler Grey ("Suicide Squad," 2016), who plays Trent in the show, was a real-life member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and has spent nine years in the military.

A.J. Buckley, Neil Brown Jr., David Boreanaz and Max Thieriot star in "SEAL Team"

A.J. Buckley, Neil Brown Jr., David Boreanaz and Max Thieriot star in "SEAL Team"

Despite the show being a work of fiction, the writers and producers have tried to draw from reality as much as is possible. It has been reported that the character of Jason Hayes is based on Mark Owens. Writing under a pen name, Owens is a former Navy SEAL Tier One leader who has written two books, including an in-depth coverage of the successful mission to kill Osama Bin Laden. According to his memoir, "No Easy Day," Owens fired the fatal shot.

The realism that the show works hard to present requires a tremendous amount of work from the entire cast and crew, along with their particular research to keep the show authentic. This kind of true-to-life scripting and precision filming is, of course, hard on everyone.

Thieriot, who not only stars in but also directed Season 3 Episode 17, has said, however, that the easiest cast member to work with was actually Dita the Hair Missile Dog, who plays Cerberus. When Parade magazine interviewed him about his directorial experience, Thieriot said, "Dita is a pro. She's easier than the rest of the actors!"

In real life, Dita is owned by "SEAL Team" cast member Justin Melnick ("5 Hacks," 2012), who plays Brock Reynolds. Justin is a real-life police canine unit officer from Muncie, Indiana. He was also a combat photographer who spent years in Afghanistan. He didn't originally audition for a part in the show as an actor and was only expecting some short-term work as a stuntman. Instead, he was recruited to be part of the cast — and the rest is history.

Off set, Melnick is actively involved in military charities, including school safety programs and "End of Watch," a program that provides assistance for the families of fallen soldiers. These efforts are reflected in the show's efforts to combine the adrenaline rush of front-line combat with heartwarming family drama for loved ones at home.

With a strong cast and a commitment to authenticity, it's no surprise that "SEAL Team" has such a wide and dedicated fan base. Make sure you tune in for the two-part Season 4 premiere of "SEAL Team" when it airs Wednesday, Dec. 2, on CBS.