Early on in "Last Resort" (8 tonight, WTAE), Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher, "Men of a Certain Age") tells his XO, Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman, "Felicity"), a story about the need to make one's opponents believe they are facing off against a crazy person.
Chaplin puts this philosophy to practice by the end of the "Last Resort" pilot, a show with an interesting concept that fails to come together in its initial execution.
Created by Shawn Ryan ("The Shield," "The Unit") and Karl Gajdusek ("Trespass," "Dead Like Me"), "Last Resort" begins with Chaplin's nuclear sub, the Colorado, picking up Navy SEALs on their way back from a mysterious mission. Then the sub receives an order through an unusual channel to fire a nuclear missile on Pakistan. Chaplin tries to confirm the order through normal channels and that's when events start to spiral out of control.
Directed by Martin Campbell, "Last Resort" has it intense moments when the focus is on Chaplin and Kendal, but anytime the plot drifts to Washington, "Last Resort" fizzles. In part that's because Chaplin and Kendal are such a good team that it's a shame for attention to ever leave them, but it's also due to the soapy, conspiracy story that seems to have its roots in D.C.
Early on Chaplin watches a news report about an "embattled president" and then viewers are subjected to a litany of exposition from Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser, "The O.C."), who works for a defense contractor and seems to know more about what's happening aboard the Colorado than a high-ranking military officer whose daughter serves on the sub. These scenes feel like something out of "Scandal": moments of ridiculousness that punctuate an otherwise taut, dramatic story.
By the end of the premiere, Chaplin and crew have taken up residence on an exotic island and Chaplin has delivered a stem-winder of a speech to American leaders back home. It's a shining moment for Mr. Braugher, who adds gravitas to any project he's involved in. Because of his presence there's reason to be hopeful that "Last Resort" can improve, but first impressions suggest the writers of "Last Resort" are waging an internal battle bet-ween grounding the show in some semblance of reality and allowing it to spin out into cheap soap opera territory.
A version of this review first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: email@example.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. Attend a TV 101 PGU panel discussion of the TV business next week; details at http://old.post-gazette.com/PGU. First Published September 27, 2012 4:00 AM