Tag Archives: Chuck

Last Ship on TNT: Subtlety held at Bay

The Last Ship

Adam Baldwin and Eric Dane (from left) star as the top-ranking officers aboard ‘The Last Ship,’ a summer thriller premiering tonight on TNT.

I can tell you nearly everything you need to know about The Last Ship, a TNT summer series premiering tonight, in four words: executive producer Michael Bay. The mastermind – I’m using the term very loosely here – behind the big-screen Tranformers movie franchise has earned a reputation for making movies in which bombastic action routinely trumps nuance and character development. While other directors focus on exploring the subtle emotional hues of a drama, Bay prefers to use crayons.
While he didn’t co-write or direct The Last Ship, this big, noisy action thriller is very much in keeping with Bay’s preferred style. The story opens about four months ago, as Cmdr. Tom Chandler (Eric Dane, Grey’s Anatomy) and his second-in-command, Mike Slattery (Adam Baldwin, Chuck), embark with their crew of the Navy destroyer U.S.S. Nathan James for what they believe to be a four-month top-secret series of weapons tests in the Arctic. Also aboard the vessel is Dr. Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra), a paleomicrobiologist (yeah, I didn’t know that was a thing, either), who tells Chandler she’s tagging along to look for bird-borne microbes in the polar ice.
After the four months are up, however, Chandler is surprised when he receives orders for the ship to stay put until further notice. He becomes far more suspicious when Rachel, while collecting ice samples, and her party are attacked by a squadron of Russian military helicopters. Once everyone is back aboard the ship, Rachel reluctantly tells Chandler the whole truth: She’s desperately seeking the “primordial strain” of a mystery virus that has caused a devastating pandemic. While deaths had been limited to cluster groups in Africa and Asia when their ship departed four months ago, in the interim billions have died, and an estimated 80 percent of Earth’s population is infected.
With millions more dying by the day, world order has collapsed. The president of the United States is dead. No one is answering the phones at the Pentagon. Governments have fallen. As one politician tells Chandler by videophone, civilization no longer is made up of allies and enemies, just desperate individuals willing to do anything to survive.
Rachel is mankind’s best hope, if she can devise a vaccine against the mystery plague. But she knows the virus may be mutating, so if she does come up with a serum, will it already be obsolete? There’s no one she can reach in the medical community to give her updates.
As central premises go, this one is a doozy: These people are trying to save the world, yet exactly what kind of world are they saving? If The Last Ship had been willing to explore some of the myriad moral and ethical ambiguities the story invites, especially as considered by characters of some real depth and complexity, this series might have been something very special.
Unfortunately, we’re left with cardboard heroes trying to outfox stock cartoon villains: al-Qaeda terrorists! Those damn Russkies! Velociraptors! (OK, I made up that last one, but then, I’ve only seen the first three episodes).
The Last Ship is what it is, a handsome, deafening, fast-paced video game, where characters we care little or nothing about get thrust into one deadly situation after another, usually while grabbing one another by the shoulders and screaming, “YOU DON’T GET TO PLAY GOD!” or something like that. Taken on those terms, it’s definitely not boring, and John Pyper-Ferguson even manages to interject some critically needed quirkiness into the poker-faced proceedings as a former Guantanamo guard who joins the team in episode two. His name is Tex. As, of course, it would be.
If The Last Ship were a meal, it would be a bloody steak and a tall glass of scotch. If that’s what you’re in the mood for on a hot summer night, it must might hit the spot.
The Last Ship

Travis Van Winkle (‘Hart of Dixie’ ) co-stars as heroic Lt. Danny Green in TNT’s new summer series ‘The Last Ship.’

Intelligence lacks creative smarts

Marg Helgenberger, Megan Ory and Josh Holloway star in 'Intelligence,' premiering tonight.

Marg Helgenberger, Megan Ory and Josh Holloway star in ‘Intelligence,’ premiering tonight on CBS.

I get that everything old is new again on TV these days, but I’m still a little shocked to come across a big-ticket series called Intelligence, no less, that feels like a throwback to the 1970s or ‘80s. And not in a good way.
This new CBS drama, which premieres tonight in the coveted time period following NCIS, stars Josh Holloway (Sawyer from Lost) as Gabriel Vaughn, a decorated hero with a genetic quirk that allowed the U.S. military to implant a super-computer microchip that links his brain to what the show calls “the information grid.” That means Gabriel is able to access even highly classified information at any high-tech facility in the world, making him one of the most important weapons on the planet.
As the series premieres, however, Gabriel is largely preoccupied with his missing wife, another operative who almost everyone believes went rogue and changed sides during a violent episode in India. Gabriel refuses to accept this, however, and he is prone to reckless, loose-cannon behavior on most of his missions, so his boss, Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation), hires Secret Service Special Agent Riley Neal (Megan Ory, Once Upon a Time) to protect this vital human asset from outside threats.
Gabriel’s embedded chip allows him to investigate incidents by accessing hard data from the information grid and then interpolating that with informed speculation on his part to form a dreamlike snapshot through which he can physically walk and examine an event literally from every perspective. The snapshot we see in the Intelligence premiere – the moment when his wife supposedly went rogue in Mumbai – is stunningly realized in visual terms, but nothing around it is anywhere near as impressive.
Fans of Chuck, Josh Schwartz’s clever 2007-12 NBC spy dramedy starring Zachary Levi as a young man with the Internet downloaded into his brain, will recognize the basic premise of Intelligence, and that became a problem for me as this “new” CBS series unfolded. Apart from some of the technical visuals, most of Intelligence feels so flat and unoriginal and lazily retro up against Chuck that I started having the weirdest, time-warping feeling that I was watching a much older, inferior sci-fi series that somehow inspired Schwartz to make his own, far more entertaining, show.
Even the villains in Intelligence feel tired and recycled. In the pilot, it’s the Chinese. In episode two, it’s Islamist terrorists looking for new ways to blow themselves up. Who should we expect in episode 3? Lex Luthor?
For the record, Holloway is much better than the writing would seem to allow, adding interesting layers to Gabriel that aren’t really in the script, but I hope Helgenberger is getting a really nice paycheck for Intelligence. This exceptional actress, who has an Emmy Award and four other nominations for past performances, is playing a character who might as well be called Sister Mary Exposition, because all she does is walk through scenes and keep viewers up to date on what’s happening. As for Ory, I thought she looked far too supermodel-y to be a credible Secret Service agent in the pilot, but by episode two, I have to admit, she was earning my respect.
In addition to these three hard-working actors, Intelligence also largely squanders the wonderful character actor John Billinsgsley as – I am not making up this name – Dr. Shenandoah Cassidy, the neuroscientist who designed and implanted Gabriel’s microchip.
I like all these actors, and I like to believe Intelligence can somehow turn itself around creatively and become a much better show. At this point, however, that show would have to be called Blind Faith.
Josh Holloway and Megan Ory in 'Intelligence,'

Josh Holloway and Megan Ory in ‘Intelligence,’