Atlanta-based TNT already has a post-apocalyptic show on the air called "Falling Skies," with Steven Spielberg as an executive producer. Now it's adding a second one, courtesy of "Transformers" producer Michael Bay, dubbed "The Last Ship."
The scenario is familiar: a very contagious, airborne virus is decimating the world population. There are no zombies this time around. People just die.
But a Navy missile destroyer away in the Arctic for several months has escaped the virus. Better yet, a paleomicrobiologist on board may have found the"primordial DNA" ingredients in the ice for a possible cure.
And Naval Commanding Officer Tom Chandler - played with steely-eyed grit by former "Grey's Anatomy" star Eric Dane -is now responsible not only for 216 lives under his watch but also the fate of the entire human race.
Communication with the outside world gets spotty. At one point, it's unclear if governments even rule nations anymore.
"He's very principled but very conflicted," Dane said in a recent interview. "He's got a crew to take care of, a chain of command to preserve and a mission to carry out. I have to keep morale up as hope wanes."
The show is earnest, action packed and backed by dramatic orchestral music, just like any Bay-infused production. Much of the early episodes are set on an actual naval destroyer, helping give the show a sense of verisimilitude.
"I love Michael Bay," Dane said. "He makes people larger than life. The scope of this is huge. The great thing is TVs have gotten bigger. Technology has improved so people can have a cinematic experience at home."
The writers also make the Russians immediate enemies, which is timely given what's going on in the real world. And in the second episode, the ship visits Guantanamo Bay, another locale that has been in the news lately.
"The Last Ship" is a centerpiece for the network's revamped slogan "Drama. Boom."
TNT executives are hoping for another hit along the lines of "Falling Skies," a sci-fi show drama that draws more younger viewers than any other original program on the network. Not surprisingly, TNT has scheduled "The Last Ship" right before "Falling Skies."
The show has been in the hopper for awhile. TNT released the first trailer for the show more than a year ago. On YouTube, it's been seen 3.8 million times.
Early reviews have been on the positive side. Newsday gave it a B-minus, calling it "passable summer thriller with some decent (for TV) action sequences." SFGate.com writes, "Despite the fact that there's nothing here you haven't seen before, TNT makes it fun to watch."
Forbes notes that given TV budget restrictions, big-time explosions can't happen every five minutes but the drama "isn't at a loss of ambition" with "hostage crises, high-scale games of chicken and covert escape missions."
"The Last Ship," 9 p.m. Sunday, starting June 22, TNT
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