The new fall TV shows are here. How many of them will stick around for an entire season, we can only guess. This past Thursday, ABC premiered one of the years’ more promising new series, the Navy-themed mystery thriller ‘Last Resort’, from producer Shawn Ryan (‘The Shield’, ‘The Unit’). Does this boat float or sink?
The show takes place aboard a nuclear submarine, the U.S.S. Colorado, captained by Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher, who looks really pudgy in the uniform). The pilot episode, called ‘Captain’, opens with the rescue of a small crew of Navy S.E.A.L.s from a dangerous op in Pakistan, the details of which the ship’s crew is not privy to learn. Meanwhile, back home in Washington, D.C., a scandal may lead to impeachment proceedings for the President.
Seemingly out of the blue, Chaplin receives a command to launch a nuclear missile directly into Pakistan. Although the order is verified, it comes through secondary emergency channels that were only intended to be used in the event that war had taken out all primary lines of communication. Yet, as far as he can tell, it seems like a normal day out in the world. When Chaplin insists that the order be retransmitted through proper channels, he’s immediately relieved of command and his Executive Officer, Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman), is promoted to acting Captain. When Kendal also demands that the orders be validated through proper channels, an American warship fires a Tomahawk missile at them, which the sub barely avoids through an emergency dive.
Later, the crew learns that another ship followed orders and launched a nuke into Pakistan. An official statement from the government claims that this was a retaliatory strike after the country fired at and supposedly destroyed the Colorado. The United States is at war with Pakistan.
In need of safe harbor while they figure out what’s going on, Chaplin devises a plan to invade and take over a small tropical island called San Marino. Where exactly this island is supposed to be located is never properly explained. The natives are more confused than resistant, though the local crime lord who effectively runs the place is displeased by the situation. Conveniently, the island houses a NATO listening station (manned by a French girl with a totally impenetrable accent) that will allow them to keep tabs on what’s happening in the world.
Unsurprisingly, the U.S. government declares the crew traitors and sends a couple of bombers to level the island. Chaplin and Kendal launch a nuke towards Washington, D.C. and threaten to let it strike if the planes don’t turn around. Eventually, they do, but only after Chaplin’s deadline had passed. To prove that he wasn’t just bluffing and needs to be taken seriously, Chaplin lets the missile continue on course, where it detonates in the ocean about 200 miles from Washington. It’s enough to get the world’s attention. Chaplin then makes a public statement declaring a 200-mile No Man’s Land around the island. Should the United States try to attack again, the next missile will strike land.
This is a pretty juicy set-up and, aside from some dodgy CGI, the episode generally has glossy production values. (The pilot was directed by Martin Campbell of ‘GoldenEye’, ‘Casino Royale’ and, regrettably, ‘Green Lantern’.) In addition to Braugher, Robert Patrick plays his seditious Chief of the Boat, and Bruce Davison plays a Navy admiral back home whose daughter is on the sub. However, the cast is almost hilariously divided between great actors like these and terrible actors standing side-by-side, with little in between. The annoying Autumn Reeser from ‘Entourage’ is supposed to be a Washington power player and super-genius who invented a top secret stealth technology being used on the sub, or something ridiculous like that. Many of the background crew members on the boat were clearly cast for their looks, not their acting talent. Seriously, the crew of this ship look like they stepped out of a J.Crew catalog. There’s an absurd percentage of hotties on board, both female and male.
Also, although I’ve never been in the Navy, I’ve seen my share of submarine movies, and this sub looks improbably roomy and spacious inside.
Even so, despite some unfortunate cheesiness, the concept is terrific and the show seems to have a lot of potential (much more so than NBC’s woeful ‘Revolution’, that’s for sure). I think I’m on board. We’ll see where this goes.