Tag Archives: TNT

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.’

Steven Bochco’s back with Murder in the First on TNT

'Murder in the First' premieres Monday on TNT.

Kathleen Robertson and Taye Diggs star as San Francisco police detectives investigating a pair of apparently connected killings in ‘Murder in the First,’ premiering Monday on TNT.

Ten-time Emmy winner Steven Bochco returns to primetime in his wheelhouse – the cop/courtroom drama – with Murder in the First, an uneven but promising new series premiering Monday night on TNT.
The iconoclastic writer and producer could use a hit right now. Since his groundbreaking NYPD Blue ended its ABC run after 12 seasons in 2005, he’s had two ratings failures. The excellent Geena Davis political drama Commander in Chief (ABC, 2005-06) lasted only a single season, while the quirky legal dramedy Raising the Bar eked out a 2008-09 two-season run on TNT.
Murder in the First borrows the same basic format as Bochco’s 1995-97 ABC courtroom drama Murder One, in that it follows a single case over the course of this 10-episode season. What seemed revolutionary in 1995, however, now seems commonplace. In fact, given Bochco’s career-long reputation as an artistic maverick, the most surprising thing about Murder in the First is how unsurprising it is.
Taye Diggs (Private Practice) and Kathleen Robertson (Bates Motel) star as San Francisco Police detectives Terry English and Hildy Mulligan, respectively, who are investigating two seemingly unrelated murders in the premiere episode. One involves a junkie shot to death in his seedy flophouse apartment. The other victim is a beautiful (and very nude) blonde found dead at the bottom of a staircase inside her home.
In short order, however, Terry and Hildy discover that both victims had intimate ties to an unlikely but high-profile suspect: Silicon Valley boy wonder Erich Blunt (Tom Felton from the Harry Potter movie series), whose technical wizardry has transformed him into the world’s youngest billionaire.
Erich’s initial arrogance when confronted by the detectives starts to crumble as compelling circumstantial evidence against him begins piling up, so he hires super-attorney Warren Daniels (Emmy winner James Cromwell, American Horror Story: Asylum) to represent him in court.
If Erich is the prime suspect, however, Terry and Hildy find another person of interest in Bill Wilkerson (Steven Weber, Wings), Erich’s driver and pilot, who also had had a sexual relationship with the dead woman.
TNT sent the first three episodes of Murder in the First for review, which was a smart move, because Monday’s episode is not especially compelling. In the span of a single hour, the premiere tries to introduce a staggering number of characters as well as laying out the basic details of the two murders. Concurrently, a secondary storyline shows Diggs’ character coming apart under the strain of caring for her terminally ill wife (Anne-Marie Johnson, In the Heat of the Night), a tedious subplot that only serves to distract us from the central mystery.
Robertson is terrific as Hildy, a single mom who is smart, focused and given to wisecracks. Diggs is fine, but his character’s personal story feels arbitrary and grafted on.
Based on the three episodes of Murder in the First I’ve seen, it’s Felton who turns in the most galvanizing performance. Now 26, the British actor spent most of his teen years playing nasty Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, but he has matured into a confident grown-up actor who skillfully plays things right down the middle as our principal suspect, keeping us guessing from scene to scene as to whether Erich is a sociopathic killer or just an innocent jerk. He also has potent chemistry with Robertson in scenes where each is trying to charm the other to find out what he/she knows.
By the end of the third episode, I was pretty firmly invested in Murder in the First, which sports a large ensemble that also includes Richard Schiff (The West Wing), Raphael Sbarge (Once Upon a Time), Nicole Ari Parker (Revolution) and Currie Graham (Raising the Bar). If this show feels like a throwback for Bochco, maybe he just figured if it’s not broken, why fix it?
Tom Felton in 'Murder in the First.'

British actor Tom Felton stars as a young Silicon Valley billionaire who becomes the prime suspect in a double murder in TNT’s new drama ‘Murder in the First.’

TNT’s Perception returns for winter season

'Perception' returns tonight on TNT.

Emmy winner Eric McCormack and Rachael Leigh Cook star in ‘Perception,’ which begins its winter season tonight on TNT.

Dr. Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack) springs to the defense of a train-loving autistic teenager accused of committing murder by locomotive as TNT’s unconventional crime drama Perception returns tonight for its winter season.
At least initially, it’s a fairly satisfying episode with a few nice twists, but less than halfway in, it’s easy to see the plot hinges on one of the hoariest devices in all of mystery literature.
Then again, that’s sort of how it usually is with Perception, a series that’s as erratic as its main character: a brilliant but maddeningly quirky neuroscience professor whose perception of human behavior is oddly enhanced by his own paranoid schizophrenia. When he isn’t lecturing to college classes, Daniel is assisting FBI Agent Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook), a former student, who has enlisted his help in getting a fresh perspective on baffling cases the bureau is facing in the Chicago area.
As we watch most of the cases unfold, we witness Daniel’s cognitive process manifest itself via a series of hallucinations that help his subconscious mind work through details in the case that may not be immediately apparent. In tonight’s winter season opener, that’s baseball Hall of Famer Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown (guest star Brad Beyer), but previous episodes have included hallucinatory guest appearances by Joan of Arc, among other historical biggies.
To enjoy Perception, you have to buy into the premise of the show, which posits that a very unstable personality who frequently goes off his meds is regarded as an even vaguely credible asset by the FBI. That’s why the most engaging episodes find Daniel working in a somewhat peripheral capacity, as in an upcoming hour that revolves mainly around Daniel’s overworked teaching assistant Max Lewicki (Arjay Smith). Although Daniel does play a key role in helping clear Lewicki’s kid brother (guest star Chris Meyer) of a murder charge, the more compelling parts of that episode actually find Lewicki forced to examine his all-consuming professional relationship with Daniel. When Dean Haley (Levar Burton) offers Lewicki a chance to study abroad, Lewicki asks himself for the first time whether he is sacrificing his own life and career for the sake of his mentor. It’s one of the best episodes of Perception I’ve ever seen.
TNT sent out only tonight’s winter premiere and the Lewicki episode for review, so I don’t know whether the welcome absence (mostly) of Kelly Rowan’s hallucinatory sidekick Natalie is by design or just coincidental. I hope it’s the former, because that character only gets in the way of the other, far more interesting relationships elsewhere on the show.
'Perception' returns tonight on TNT.

An upcoming episode focuses on the prickly relationship between Dr. Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack, left) and Max Lewicki (Arjay Smith), his teaching assistant.

Kelley’s heroes

The departure of Fox’s House last spring from the primetime schedule has left room for a new medical drama that uses its hospital setting as more than a backdrop for soapy sex (yes, Grey’s Anatomy, I’m looking at you), and Monday Mornings, a new TNT series from David E. Kelley premiering tonight, is hoping to be just what the doctor ordered.
If only this prescription didn’t feel quite so generic.
Set at a fictional hospital in Portland, Ore., the new series takes its title from the facility’s weekly morbidity and mortality conference, at which chief of staff Dr. Harding Hooten (Alfred Molina, sporting an odd Linda Hunt hairstyle) leads a confidential review of the past week’s errors and complications in patient care. As you might expect, it’s not a lighthearted gathering, and Hooten’s unwelcome attention can shift at any moment to any member of his staff, which includes gifted but impetuous neurosurgeon Dr. Tyler Wilson (Jamie Bamber, Battlestar Galactica); his supportive colleague Dr. Tina Ridgeway (Jennifer Finnigan, Close to Home); insensitive transplant specialist Dr. Buck Tierney (Bill Irwin, who played the Dick & Jane serial killer on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation); and the brilliant but socially inept Dr. Sung Park (Keong Sim, Glee), whose shaky bedside manner is further undercut by a woeful command of English. The strong ensemble also includes Ving Rhames as trauma chief Dr. Jorge Villanueva and Sarayu Rao and Emily Swallow (Southland) as other staff members.
As creator and/or executive producer of such past water cooler shows as Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, Ally McBeal, The Practice and Boston Legal, Kelley developed a reputation for storytelling that blends compelling drama with quirky character comedy, but based on the three preview episodes TNT provided to TV writers, he’s playing things perfectly straight here – understandable, given that these characters are dealing with, literally, matters of life and death. But who are these characters, exactly?
Bamber’s warmth and nice-guy appeal keeps Dr. Wilson from being a hotshot-in-scrubs cliché, but so far, it’s hard to understand why a doctor who is so patient-focused that he literally is haunted by a child who died in his care is also prone to making high-handed judgment calls that even a casual viewer will recognize as ethical red flags, and Finnigan’s supposedly brilliant Dr. Ridgeway overlooks a major medical factor in one surgery that threatens the promising career of her patient, then compounds the error by entrusting the procedure to a young resident who never before has performed that operation. No doubt we’ll get a better handle on these medics as the series unfolds but already Monday Mornings seems to be settling into a seen-it-before formula that is a little worrisome.
Even more troubling is Dr. Park’s shockingly weak communication skills, which have him spouting what approaches pidgin English to his patients (“Not do, die!” he tells one girl who is reluctant to have a procedure). Is this supposed to be funny? I’m honestly not sure, and I also notice his command of English seems to vary conveniently based on the demands of any given scene.
All that said, I’m hoping Monday Mornings can pull itself together and become the medical drama TV could really use right now. There are no obvious weak links anywhere in the cast, and I especially hope Kelley and his team can find a way to use Irwin – a dazzling actor who can handle both comedy and drama with virtuoso ease – to maximum effect.
At present, however, prognosis for this series is inconclusive.