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TNT's The Last Ship the latest to fight against all odds


Presenting the taut-jawed stars of The Last Ship. TNT photo

Premiering: Sunday, July 22nd at 8 p.m. (central) on TNT
Starring: Eric Dane, Rhona Mitra, Adam Baldwin, Travis Van Winkle, Charles Parnell, Christina Elmore, Sam Spruell, Marissa Neitling, John Pyper Ferguson
Produced by: Michael Bay, Brad Fuller, Andrew Form, Hank Steinberg, Steven Kane, Jack Bender

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The scope and visual effects speak for themselves in TV’s latest “Race to Save the World.” They’re for the most part impressive enough, even if some of the explosions look a little on the puny side in the three episodes sent for review.

Alas, the characters in TNT’s The Last Ship also must verbally express themselves. And in a full-blown armed forces drama, cliches can be harder to avoid than a bad mess hall meal.

The principal man of action in Last Ship is rock-ribbed Capt. Tom Chandler (Eric Dane), described in TNT publicity materials as “authoritative and decisive, but also fair and courageous.” As the man in charge of a Navy destroyer christened the U.S.S. Nathan James, he’s required to maintain a military bearing while mouthing lines such as “Time is something we don’t have.” Or “Revenge is best served cold.” In addition to, “These people depend on me, but I’m in uncharted territory here.”

Yes, you might say that. Few ship captains and their crews have encountered a situation in which they’re initially alone at sea while trying to formulate a vaccine for a virus that already has wiped out 80 percent of the world’s population, including the U.S. president and vice president. Earth will continue to take a beating with Sunday’s Season 4 premiere of TNT’s Falling Skies, which immediately follows Last Ship.

Chandler’s right-hand man is Mike Slattery (Adam Baldwin), the ship’s regularly vexed but seemingly loyal executive officer. But the captain’s principal ally, with whom he of course clashes at first, is super-dedicated paleomicrobiologist Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra). Thanks to some incredibly bad- shooting Russian helicopter gunmen, she’s survived an arctic blast and come up with a “primordial sample” that could be the key to a cure. But this will take time. Probably lots of time. Even if time is something no one has.

Based on the same-named novel by William Brinkley, Last Ship is somewhat reminiscent of ABC’s Last Resort, a failed 2012 military drama in which a lone ship and its crew also faced all kinds of imposing odds. The problem is how to keep the plot afloat from week to week in an overall claustrophobic setting. How often can Capt. Chandler tighten his jaw and heroically maneuver his way through another life-threatening situation? Will those la-BOR-atory test tubes ever yield anything other than dead ends? How many times can various crew members either melt down or nobly sacrifice themselves? And will a steady diet of canned peaches eventually drive everyone mad?

By the end of Episode 2, largely set in virus-ravaged Guantanamo Bay, Last Ship is resorting to a prototypically demonic Russian admiral (Nick Jameson) who’s older and much less prettier than Chandler. He also happens to be the same guy who “literally wrote the book on modern naval warfare,” according to a hardback in the U.S.S. Nathan James library. So at the outset of Episode 3, Chandler’s on the receiving end of this command: “If you don’t do as I say, you and your crew will leave this harbor under a mushroom cloud.”

Well, that would pretty much end The Last Ship well short of the first season’s 10-episode order. So never fear, there’s some derring-do coming. As well as this call-to-arms boast from pretty lieutenant Kara Foster (Marissa Neitling): “I can knock the nipples off a chicken from a thousand yards, sir.”

This proves to be the most ridiculously entertaining of the first three episodes. But one doesn’t expect a whole lot of nuance from Last Ship maestro Michael Bay, who’s also produced all four Transformers movies, with another one in the works. You just sit back, swallow this thing whole and wait for sturdy, studly, stolid Captain Chandler to fire off another round of uniformed rhetoric.

“I’m not letting anybody on this ship give up,” says he. “I’m still the captain of this ship! Now I’ve laid out our mission. I expect you to fall in line.”

He forgot to add, “This ain’t no stinkin’ Love Boat.”


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