The question is "Hit, or run?" and for the submarine crew in the new ABC drama Last Resort, the answer is immediate and simple.
Faced with a suspicious order to deliver a nuclear strike on targets in Pakistan -- an order that did not arrive through the usual direct channels -- Capt. Marcus Chaplin (André Braugher) of the U.S. submarine Colorado decides not to launch the missiles that will inevitably start a global conflict until he gets confirmation from an official source.
Immediately, he is branded a traitor and stripped of his command; his first officer, XO Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) is given the order, considers it briefly, and makes the only decision his conscience will allow.
And with that, the Colorado and its crew becomes enemies of their own state, forced to go rogue and on the run until they can use back-channel connections to clear the ship's name.
Last Resort, which premieres tonight at 7 on ABC and Global, arrives with a densely packed pilot episode that's really two shows in one -- the first half concerns itself with the order, the refusal, and the immediate consequences that force the Colorado to run for its life, and the second focuses on what happens to the ship and its personnel when they find safe harbour near an unnamed exotic island in the south Pacific.
The first part is classic undersea-warship action and suspense, with Braugher contributing a particularly strong performance (as he always does) as the sub's conflicted commander. The second part is a bit tougher to digest, because arriving at the island hideaway suddenly creates multiple storyline locations and a doubled-up set of characters to be serviced.
It's a bit of a muddle, but it's still fun to watch and shows enough dramatic promise to warrant a second visit.
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When the CBS drama Elementary was announced as part of this fall's new-show roster, some observers wondered quite loudly whether there's room for a new spin on the timeless Sherlock Holmes tales when there's already a sequel-ized big-screen franchise (featuring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law) and a stunning modern-day spin by BBC and PBS with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the roles of Holmes and sidekick Watson.
But the truth of the matter is that the Downey/Law features are very occasional offerings, and the PBS/Masterpiece series, while excellent, has been seen by a relatively small audience.
So perhaps there's space on the pop-culture landscape for Elementary, a likable new CBS drama that places Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) in the present and transports him from London to New York, where (according to the series' back story) he's attempting to re-start his life after a stint in drug rehab.
As a condition of his relocation, Holmes's wealthy father has required him to live with a "sober companion" who will ensure he doesn't slide back into his past problems. And that companion is Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), with whom Holmes develops an uneasy bond while working as a "consultant" to the NYPD homicide squad.
In many ways, Elementary (which premieres tonight at 9 on CBS and Global) is a standard-issue U.S. network cop drama. What elevates it is Miller's unique interpretation of Holmes, and the intriguing gender-switch casting of Liu as Watson, which creates conflicts and possibilities never considered in the original source material.
Ultimately, it's the ratings number-crunchers who will deduce Elementary's chances of surviving the fall crush. The feeling here is that this series deserves a thorough investigation.
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Starring André Braugher, Scott Speedman, Daisy Betts, Dichen Lachman, Daniel Lissing and Robert Patrick
Tonight at 7
ABC and Global
4 stars out of 5
Starring Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu and Aidan Quinn
Tonight at 9
CBS and Global
4 stars out of 5