Tuned In: Good launch for 'Last Ship'

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As meat-and-potatoes TV goes, TNT’s “The Last Ship” (9 p.m. Sunday) is an entertaining show as it cribs elements from “Last Resort,” “Star Trek: Voyager” and “The Walking Dead” to create a futuristic, militaristic tale of crisis that manages to avoid getting too dark.

Ignore the preposterous setup – birds transmit a virus from the Arctic to Egypt? – and star Eric Dane’s mispronunciation of “Norfolk” twice in the first eight minutes and focus instead on the propulsive plot that pushes each episode forward until it runs headlong into an episode-ending cliffhanger that encourages viewers to return the next week.

Sunday’s premiere begins with paleomicrobiologist Rachel Scott (Rhona Mitra, “The Practice”) investigating a new virus outbreak in Egypt. Soon after she’s assigned to the USS Nathan James, which is sent on a four-month mission to the Arctic where Scott will do research while Capt. Tom Chandler (Mr. Dane, who played McSteamy on “Grey’s Anatomy”) conducts military exercises while on a communication blackout with command.

When the mission is complete and Chandler contacts HQ, he learns much has changed: The virus has swept over the planet, the U.S. president is dead and Chandler’s boat, the titular “Last Ship,” is pretty much on its own.

The plot bears some similarities to ABC’s 2012-13 dud “Last Resort,” about a U.S. nuclear sub and its crew that goes rogue after corruption in Washington, and to “The Walking Dead” with the virus angle. But “The Last Ship” comes off as less dark, both visually and thematically.

Maybe that’s why it brings to mind “Star Trek: Voyager,” which was about a ship and its crew marooned and on their own, seeking resources to sustain themselves.

“The Last Ship” is advertised as coming from film director Michael Bay (“Transformers”), and things do blow up big and loud, especially in Sunday’s pilot, but more importantly “The Last Ship” was created by Hank Steinberg (“Without a Trace,” “The Nine”) and Steven Kane (“The Closer”) with episodes directed by Jonathan Mostow (“U-571”) and Jack Bender (“Lost”).

Mr. Steinberg and Mr. Kane do quick work through the first three episodes (made available for review) of building the show’s world. While secondary characters are not that well fleshed out, the writers do give Chandler and the ship’s second-in-command (Adam Baldwin, “Chuck”) some back story along with secretly in-love crew members Green (Travis Van Winkle, “Hart of Dixie”) and Foster (Marissa Neitling, “Leverage”).

“The Last Ship” is fairly serialized, and new characters join the show during a voyage to Guantanamo Bay in episodes two and three, which also contributes to deepening the show’s mythology and creating the sense of a lived-in world.

It’s entirely possible “The Last Ship” could turn out to be a cruise to nowhere, but in its first three episodes, it’s at least a fun ride.

‘‍Almost Royal’

Fans of “Borat”-style comedies may find BBC America’s “Almost Royal” (10 p.m. Saturday) too tame, but viewers who squirm through comedy-of-the-uncomfortable series like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” will appreciate the gentler approach.

Faux siblings Georgie (Ed Gamble) and Poppy Carlton (Amy Hoggart) claim to be 50th and 51st in line to the British royal throne and come to America following their father’s death.

In the premiere, set in Los Angeles, the pair encounters a passel of real-life Americans who don’t know these Brits are actors pretending to be posh aristocrats. The Carltons meet Fabio hawking products at Whole Foods, take a tour of Beverly Hills and proclaim themselves “friends with benefits” (the tour guide tells the siblings they should stop saying that), and visit a plastic surgeon. (Poppy later says he looks “like a frozen cat,” which is both unkind and true.)

“Almost Royal” is not a series that demands to be watched, but it’s a cute diversion for Anglophiles looking for intermittent laughs.

‘The Musketeers’

Every few years somebody decides to update the story of the Three Musketeers, just as they do Robin Hood and other classics. It’s usually a pretty unnecessary exercise; it’s tough to bring much new to ye olde stories, and that’s true again with BBC America’s “The Musketeers” (9-10:15 p.m. Sunday), a fine but unexceptional retelling.

This one differentiates itself slightly by making France look even dirtier and the guys are beardier. It’s the hipster Musketeers to the rescue.

The story begins with D’Artagnan (Luke Pasqualino, “Skins,” “Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome”) attempting to avenge his father‘‍s death, which brings him into a headlong confrontation with the king’s Musketeers, who have come under suspicion for abuses of power, charges brought forth by scheming Cardinal Richlieu (Peter Capaldi, soon to star in “Doctor Who”), who’s really just setting them up to fail to buttress his power and influence with King Louis (Ryan Gage).

There are sword fights, gun battles and fisticuffs; the Musketeers embark on possibly doomed love affairs; Cardinal Richlieu plots. There’s little in this incarnation viewers have not seen before.

‘Kill’ officially killed

An A&E publicist confirmed the expected this week: Filmed-in-Pittsburgh crime drama “Those Who Kill” has been canceled.

That was pretty much a foregone conclusion given the way the show was treated and executive producer Glen Morgan’s May 18 tweet following “Kill’s” first-season finale: “Thank you to Those Who Found, Watched and Supported #ThoseWhoKill. We'll miss Pittsburgh. #LetsGoBucs. Catherine will be okay.”

Now it’s official from the network.

Series star Chloe Sevigny had already moved on, landing roles in an Amazon.com pilot and in an upcoming Netflix psychological thriller from the producers of “Damages.”

“Those Who Kill” filmed its pilot episode in Pittsburgh in December 2012 and returned to shoot an additional nine episodes in Fall 2013. The series, based on a Danish crime thriller, starred Ms. Sevigny as a Pittsburgh cop who worked with a forensic psychologist (James D’Arcy) to hunt serial killers while pursuing a theory that her stepfather was a child molester responsible for the death of her brother.

“Kill” debuted in March to low ratings and largely negative reviews – 54 out of 100 at Metacritic.com – and after two episodes, A&E pulled the show from its schedule, ultimately shunting the remaining episodes to sister-network LMN.

MNT announces schedule

Rerun network My Network TV, which airs in Pittsburgh on WPMY, Channel 22, announced a fall schedule that adds two series: Reruns of “The Walking Dead” will air at 8 and 9 p.m. Wednesday, and reruns of “The Mentalist” will air at 8 and 9 p.m. Thursday starting this fall.

Back-to-back reruns of “Law & Order: SVU” return on Monday nights with “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” on Tuesday and “Bones” on Friday.

Channel surfing

Fox dropped low-rated summer series “I Wanna Marry Harry” and “Riot” from its Tuesday night lineup this week, replacing them with sitcom reruns. The remaining “Harry” episodes will be available via Fox.com, Fox On Demand, Fox Now and Hulu. … Ratings for A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” continue to decline with last week’s sixth season premiere drawing 4.3 million viewers, down significantly from the 8.5 million who tuned into the season five premiere in January. … HBO’s “Game of Thrones” wrapped its fourth season Sunday at 9 p.m. with 7.1 million viewers, up 32 percent compared to its third-season finale. … Starting Sept. 1, PBS stations will air a half-hour edition of “Sesame Street,” culled from the one-hour show, in addition to retaining the original hourlong program. … WPXI news anchors Joe Arena and Katherine Amenta will anchor a 30-minute special “Ready for the Regatta” about the EQT Pittsburgh Three Rivers Regatta at 7:30 p.m. June 28.

Tuned In online

Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about “Deadliest Catch,” local weather coverage and an MIA local reporter. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on “Fargo,” “Dominion,” “Lucky Duck” and “Sullivan & Son.” Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.

This week's podcast includes conversation about “Game of Thrones,” “Fargo” and “Abby’s Studio Rescue.” Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.

TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.

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