Last Resort – Pilot Review

Everything’s getting a bit tense in Washington, and a submarine commander is ordered to launch his nuclear missiles at Pakistan. The commander asks for confirmation of the orders and his submarine is fired upon by his own side. The submarine limps to a Polynesian Island which they promptly invade and take over the UN listening post. They declare any attempt to take the island will cause them to launch their nukes.

This one caught my eye early on because it’s created by Shawn Ryan who’s made and worked on some great shows over the last decade or so – The Shield, The Unit, Terriers, Lie to Me. Then there’s that fantastic set up (although the horrible pun in the title is a bit unforgivable), the sort of thing that just doesn’t appear on television. It’s got a load of really fascinating elements that it can play with:

  • Military life on a submarine – all the usual potential to be had from ranks and pecking orders, life and death moments in the midst of tedium and routine. But on a claustrophobic submarine. And there’s women on board!
  • International politics – the politics behind a decision to actually use nuclear weapons are epic, the fallout (pardon the pun) is equally epic.
  • Renegade submarine – how does the American government and military deal with the fact they’ve lost control of their submarine? How does it negotiate or steal it back? How does that message play out publicly?
  • Life on the island – there will be plenty of local issues going on before all this started and now that the submariners have effectively invaded, how is any of that going to work?
  • Given all that great potential then, it’s a real shame that what they’ve produced is just plain rubbish.

    At first I thought it might just be a problem with the pilot. So often I find myself wishing that two-part pilots were more common and this is a key example of a show that needs it. There just wasn’t enough time taken to show the status quo before throwing it into chaos. Without understanding the political situations properly, there was no context to any of the decisions. It didn’t seem like there was sufficient justification for anyone’s actions – either the government calling for the nuclear strike, the captain not immediately following orders, or for the military disavowing him just for asking a question. Everyone just came across as making some of the most important decisions in recent history on a complete and utter whim.

    If the plot was rushed, the characters even more so. They’re a regular who’s who of cliché for this kind of scenario. The firm but fair captain, beloved by his crew; the young energetic XO considering taking a desk job to be with his new wife; the grizzled old by the book Chief; the Admiral’s kid who everyone thinks only got the position because of daddy; the female officer challenging the status quo. Just to cut down the headcount a bit they combine the last two into one role, and frankly given how weak she seemed, I’m on the side of those that think she doesn’t belong there. And those are just on the boat, there’s still a random group of special ops people, the Nato observation people and the islanders to deal with as well. Oh, and all the people back in the US. Good grief, it’s not surprising that there’s no time for any depth with any of them.

    I watched the second episode to see if they settled down a bit. It didn’t. It continued to be rubbish. Rather than spend some time explaining events and bedding everything in, the writers instead went with a throwaway plot that either went nowhere or set up a whole other superpower as a player in the wider political storylines. Meanwhile the characters continued to make insane leaps, dragging everyone further and further into insanity. I just spent the whole time wanting them to stop and explain, and frankly me wanting MORE exposition is a rather odd experience.

    The show that I saw in the first two episodes – I don’t want to watch. It’s a thinly veiled excuse to combine running and shooting with lots of shots of submarines, missiles and a beautiful island location. I think there is still potential that a great show may develop somewhere along the lines, it’s entirely possible that the first episodes were just poor, maybe the writers (or the network) were afraid that too much talk and plot would scare people away; that what they needed to get the ratings in was non-stop action and shouting. Maybe everything will settle down and it will start telling the interesting stories that I described at the start of the review. But until someone tells me that’s arrived, I won’t be watching any more.

    Last Resort is on Sky 1 on Tuesdays.

    Other reviews – as per usual, everyone disagrees with me.
    Huffington Post – “Last Resort” is one of the new season’s riskiest dramas, but it’s also, in my opinion, the best one
    TV Addict – The action kicks off fast and furious… which is both a good and bad thing as we’re introduced to a literal boatload of characters and their issues in no time.
    Guardian – The first episode more than lived up to expectations with some tense claustrophobic photography and fast-paced action; until the last five minutes, when I had a horrible sense that the whole show was about to go seriously pear-shaped.


    The Upfronts 2012 – ABC

    The halfway mark of the Upfronts sees ABC announcing its new line up. Housewives swap for Mistresses, Shonda Rhimes continues to rule and I think a submarine has found itself on the wrong network.

    What’s out
    Just like House for Fox, ABC retired one of the shows that’s defined its character for a long time – Desperate Housewives. I gave up on the series after only a couple of seasons and from what I’ve heard the quality continued to gradually die away, so no one was that devastated when it drew to a close. Sadly for ABC they don’t really have much going on to replace it, GCB seemed to be trying to find the same magic and I didn’t hate the pilot as much as I wanted to, but the ratings just didn’t work out for it.

    Another freshman show that failed to take off was Pan Am (pun intended) – “all a bit Barbie and Ken, pretty and plastic, all having their little melodramas with perfect hair.” Although at least it was more watchable than the utterly dire Charlie’s Angels. The River was a horror/mystery thing that I haven’t actually watched the pilot of yet and saw almost no critical comment on. Even that though is better than Missing which I’d never even heard of until I saw it on the cancelled list. ABC did manage to win the prize for most offensively awful comedy with Work It which was not so much cancelled as obliterated to the atomic level.

    What’s Back
    While ABC might be losing the housewives they’ve still got plenty of cheesy emotional melodrama for their schedules, with Grey’s Anatomy (which I can’t help loving), Private Practice (which I avoided getting hooked on), Revenge (which I didn’t like at all) and Once Upon a Time (which I liked the pilot of but haven’t got round to watching further). Easy going procedurals Body of Proof and Castle are also renewed alongside the new Shonda Rhimes series Scandal (which has a pretty good pilot, although I haven’t reviewed it here yet).

    Freshman comedies Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23, Suburgatory and Last Man Standing are all renewed alongside The Middle, Modern Family and Happy Endings. Cougar Town meanwhile managed to be both cancelled and renewed – it will air on cable channel TBS instead.

    What’s New
    666 Park Avenue – a nice couple move into an apartment building that may be built on the Hellmouth, or some such. Terry O’Quinn (Lost) stars which is always a good start and it looks deliciously creepy.

    The Family Tools (mid season) – the least handy son in history returns to town to take over the family handyman business, hilarity with nail guns ensues. What is Adam Arkin doing in this crap?

    How to Live With Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life (midseason) – Sarah Chalke (Scrubs) moves back in with her parents, who are sort of horrific. I chuckled. I kind of hate myself but I did chuckle. What’s with the ridiculously long title though?!

    Last Resort – A US nuclear submarine goes rogue, or was it the US government that went rogue and the submarine actually stayed true? I’m really not sure whether this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen or the most intriguing. It’s created by Shawn Ryan (The Unit, The Shield) though so it’s got a good pedigree.

    Malibu Country – three generations of Tennessee women head to California and the middle one tries to launch a country music career. it’s hard to get past how awful the narration and the laughter track are on this, but if you fight through it you’ll eventually uncover something desperately unfunny.

    Nashville – the cut-throat Country Music business. Nothing in the description appeals to me but the trailer really works, Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) and Hayden Panettier (Heroes) have a great spark and at least it’s something different.

    The Neighbours – a family moves to the suburbs and turns out the neighbours are not just quirky, they’re also aliens. I don’t mind the aliens bit, it’s the quirky I couldn’t stand.

    Zero Hour – Life’s gone downhill for Anthony Edwards, he used to be Mark Greene, hero of the ER now he’s stuck in this rubbish. it’s like Indiana Jones meets The Da Vinci Code, there’s Nazis and conspiracies and secrets and clocks and a lot of running around and peering at things. It looks terrible!

    Mistresses – having just dispatched of a gaggle of desperate housewives, the next step I guess is desperate mistresses. There’s only a poor quality trailer which didn’t do a very good job of establishing characters but it seems to be a bunch of people cheating on their spouses. That doesn’t really chime with the ‘inspiring tale of life and love’ type thing the music and voiceover is telling me about.

    Red Widow – like NBC’s The Mob Doctor this is another story of a woman being pulled into a ‘family business’ that she doesn’t want to be in. Being ABC though, there’s a lot more sobbing. I was just left completely meh from the trailer (which again is poor quality, because ABC region lock their trailers).

    The Futon Critic
    ABC’s website
    The Guardian (I promise I wrote all the above before reading this, we’re so in synch it’s a bit scary!