Hi, I’m Mike TV
*** (out of ****)
A lot of ingredients go into making a television show. That’s not an earth shattering revelation, but let’s go over them briefly as this is a part of the Fall TV Review. For a show to be good (we won’t even talk about what it takes to make a show great), the acting needs to be solid, the writing needs to be strong, and the premise needs to be believable [That’s believable for the world they set up, not real-world standards. If dinosaurs are dangerously life-threatening in the show, then having kids easily sneak away into the woods wouldn’t be believable. If your main character is a self-involved narcissist, then you better have a good reason for him/her to donate blood to a sick kid. Shows crumble when they change the rules, or character reactions, out of convenience instead of following the logic of their world.] I’m definitely leaving important things out; I’m just letting you know what I’m looking for in shows. Directing is certainly important, but often less make or break than other qualities. There’s no perfect formula, but you better believe if the acting is weak the writing needs to be even better, and vice versa. And if the believability of the world is forgotten, fuck that show forever.
Pilots have to do all of these things plus more. They have to establish their world enough to suck new viewers in, while figuring out exactly what their world is going to be. The first part of that is out in the open, they need to make sure we new viewers understand what we’ll potentially be investing our time into. The thing about new shows is that no one really wants to watch them. We want to watch the things that we’re used to, change is scary and the familiar is a warm cozy blanket of good things- which is why anyone is still watching the Office when there are a dozen better shows out there. So in the pilot episode, which is potentially the only shot they have, a clear world has to be established and communicated. The second part, figuring out what the show should be, is best done behind closed doors before we even see a glimpse. It’s rare that this happens, we normally watch a show stumble through different phases before giving up and being subpar rehash instead of attempting to have its own voice. Scifi shows have a bad rap for giving up before they start and feeding us everything we’ve seen before immediately. A good example of this is the new show Revolution, which we discussed a couple of weeks ago in episode 62 of the PopFilter podcast. Somehow Revolution has its defenders, and I defy you to explain to me why you think it’s a good show in the comment section, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
All of this build up brings me to the show in discussion, Last Resort. Without beating around the bush I can tell you it’s the best pilot I’ve seen in a long time. It does everything previously mentioned that a show needs to do to do it’s job well. And let me be clear, doing all of those things doesn’t even make the show good, just watchable. Last Resort is going to be a good show, if not eventually great. It sets up the world, a Navy crew of 150 men and women (only 9 of them women actually) working aboard a nuclear submarine. This could be a show unto itself, just the regular drama of a working naval submarine, dealing with the drama between officers and enlisted, missing loved ones, and the missions at hand. The first 10-15 minutes of the show creates this atmosphere, and even with nothing incredibly eventful going on, it’s still intriguing. This is a lifestyle not many of us are familiar with, and by focusing on just a few characters in detail, and sweeping around the sub, we’re given a clear window of how it works. Then the show earns its name by forcing the crew to run from their own government, and challenge Washington DC with nuclear missiles to buy enough time to figure how who’s setting them up. Because of their well-established world before these events, and because of the quality of writing and acting, everything to follow makes sense. Philosophical conversations from before the crisis inform the actions of the characters after, and as situations become life or death, small feuds blow up in proportion. To go into any more detail would give even more away than I already have. This show is by no means perfect, there are clunky moments, and all actors are not created equal. But there aren’t any that are impossible to watch, and even some of the mistakes of the show could actually be well thought out plot points. Last Resort’s wisest choice was to introduce us to 2 characters thoroughly, 2-3 others a little, and left the rest for reaction shots. There are recognizable actors that only got a line or two k, but set up further episodes. Ensemble pilots always jump the gun and try to hook us in by showing every possible relationship that they should instead slowly roll out. The audience needs to connect to a few characters at a time to build a connection to the show, which is what brings us back for more (again the Office). Last Resort is the first show of the season to get its hooks in me, and if you’re a fan of good television, give it a shot.-MG