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On a mission to save the world

Despite the ad campaign and all the hype and hoopla, there's very little that's actually new in The Last Ship, the latest concoction by Hollywood megaplayer Michael Bay (the Transformers series).

Rhona Mitra is paleomicrobiologist Rachel Scott searching for the cure to a deadly global virus in "The Last Ship" a 10-part mini-series that begins Sunday on TNT.
Rhona Mitra is paleomicrobiologist Rachel Scott searching for the cure to a deadly global virus in "The Last Ship" a 10-part mini-series that begins Sunday on TNT.Read more

Despite the ad campaign and all the hype and hoopla, there's very little that's actually new in The Last Ship, the latest concoction by Hollywood megaplayer Michael Bay (the Transformers series).

An admittedly stirring, occasionally surprising, if formulaic 10-part series, The Last Ship is about the end of the world, a topic that has taken pop culture by storm since the 9/11 attacks.

It premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday on TNT.

Adapted from the 1988 novel by William Brinkley (Don't Go Near the Water), The Last Ship is about the crew of a U.S. Navy destroyer who survive a global pandemic that kills most of the human race.

It features a capable ensemble cast led by a trio of seasoned players, Grey's Anatomy's now older, mildly wizened, yet still sexy Eric Dane (his spiky hair has a nice, mellow, gray sheen), cult-film fandom's favorite apocalypse pin-up gal, Rhona Mitra (Doomsday), and Joss Whedon player Adam Baldwin (Firefly).

The series has a ho-hum premise: A virulent virus (ahem) breaks out in parts of Asia and Africa. CDC megabrain paleomicrobiologist (say that out loud three times) Rachel Scott (Mitra) is dispatched to hitch a ride to the Arctic Circle on the USS Nathan James ("the spear of the Navy," reads its tagline) in search of the virus' "primordial strain," whatever that is, so she can synthesize a cure.

After four months, the ship breaks radio silence to report that Dr. Scott has found the primordial stuff.

They're horrified when no one answers the phone at the CDC, the Pentagon, or the White House - not even in the White House's secure underground bunker!

The world is desolate.

What should the ship's captain, Cmdr. Tom Chandler (Dane), and his trusted executive officer, Mike Slattery (Baldwin), do?

The Last Ship is more old-fashioned - and far more optimistic in tone - than other recent end-times series such as The Walking Dead, Supernatural, and Dominion. And it's certainly more palatable than FX's virus story The Strain, a brilliant if gruesome meta-vampire epic created by Guillermo del Toro.

That's because TNT's drama is pervaded by the comforting can-do attitude that Bay's square-jawed, more-American-than-American heroes bring to his films - the world may explode at any second in the Transformers films, but Tyrese Gibson and Josh Duhamel, all square jaws and smoldering, soulful eyes, never lose faith.

The Last Ship has an air of triumphalism that all but negates the suspense and dread its premise is supposed to inspire.

We all can probably guess what'll happen in the ensuing episodes: Mitra's scientist - who seems to wear an awful lot of really tight, low-cut tops - will develop a vaccine that the ship will deliver to the world, thus delivering the planet.

The ship no longer has a duty to serve America, Chandler tells the crew in a stirring speech: "Now our duty is to the entire world." (Cue rousing martial music as shipmates exchange hopeful, tender glances.)

The apocalyptic imagination was part of the fabric of human life long before TV and movies made it a multibillion-dollar cash cow - try that all-time favorite blockbuster epic in the Book of Genesis, Noah's Flood (and, of course, Darren Aronofsky's recent filmification starring Russell Crowe as the patriarch.)

Yet those stories served as warnings - for us not to give in to our hubris, greed, and hatred. Aside from a weak throwaway reference to global warming (the show's dread virus lay dormant in the ice until the permafrost melted, you see), The Last Ship seems uninterested in ethical questions.

It just wants to show that Americans still can kick derriere.

OohRah!

TV REVIEW

The Last Ship

9 p.m. Sunday on TNTEndText

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