If the Late Fifties-Early Sixties was the “Golden Age of Television,” we are now living in TV’s Stained Glass Age, beautiful pictures made of shiny bits and pieces of other things. Watching ABC’s Last Resort (Thursdays, 8:00 pm ET) I saw pieces of Crimson Tide, Seven Days in May, Star Trek: The Next Generation and a lot of Lost pieces (the central mystery whose resolution drives the show): Why did the plan crash on the island with that particular group of passengers? Why did the United States order one of its ballistic missile subs to nuke Pakistan?
The answer to that last one might have something to so with the SEAL team the USS Colorado, one of America’s newest super-submarines, picks up off the coast of Pakistan, with an injured man designated “a hostile.” The SEALs are not forthcoming about their mission but the commander asks one of his team “What went on back there?” Shortly after the extraction, the Colorado receives orders to attack Pakistan—but not through the regular channel. When the order is questioned (in light of things looking perfectly normal back in the U.S.) the captain is relieved of duty. When the XO also questions the order, the sub is fired on—by another U.S. ship.
Escaping destruction, the Colorado sets sail for the island of Sainte Marina in the Indian Ocean, a down-at-the-heels tourist spot ruled over by a racketeer/warlord. The crew of the Colorado takes over the NATO listening post on the island but not without some dissention—some members of the crew feel they should have carried out the attack order, unquestioned. When two bombers are sent to sink the Colorado for good the captain launches a nuclear missile on Washington DC; the bombers are recalled, the missile explodes out in the ocean, and the captain warns the nations of the world that he is declaring a 200 mile exclusion zone around Sainte Marina. He has seventeen missiles left and he will use them against anyone who defies his order.
The look of Last Resort is feature-film-worthy (the Colorado rising out of the sea, underneath the SEAL’s speedboat, looked really cool!) and the pacing was taught, the acting very good—but the problem with a high-concept premise like this is how do you suspend disbelief without stretching credibility to the breaking point? In real life, would it have taken search parties that long to find the survivors of Oceanic 113 (even if the timespan in the series was only 92 days)? If the US nukes Pakistan (as it did anyway) for no good reason… that would immediately make it a rogue state (one that “does not necessarily behave rationally or in its own best interests”) and the rest of the planet would unite to “stabilize” things. And there were only 150 people on the crew of the Colorado (plus four on the SEAL team and their prisoner);eleven were killed when the sub was attacked, another two or three on Sainte Marina—how many are left? How many do you need to run the boat? (And it was acknowledged two people were left on the island during the second attack; we saw they were captured by the warlord, yet no one said anything about them after that.)
Last Resort shows more potential than promise; it could easily have been a great miniseries or a cable show where a season consists of only a dozen or so episodes. Doing almost twice that per year many may not necessarily sink the show, but it might make it a choppy ride.