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'The Last Ship' sails the post-apocalyptic seas in search of 'the cure'

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"The Last Ship," the Michael Bay-produced television series on TNT network, launched Sunday night after months of 5-minute previews and non-stop promos. And if the rest of the show lives up to the action thrown at the audience in the pilot episode, stars Eric Dane, Adam Baldwin, and Rhona Mitra will have regular jobs to go to at least for three or four years.

But that's to be expected of Michael Bay stuff, Jake Perlman noted in his "Popwatch" review of "The Last Ship" June 22. "Fortunately," he wrote, "the pilot provides just enough action to excite without going overboard (pun intended)."

And it doesn't. The first hour of the series, "Phase Six," takes the viewers out to sea on the U.S.S. Nathan James, a top-of-the-line destroyer in the United States Navy. Eric Dane sits in as Captain Tom Chandler, who, after finding out that the world has been turned into a plague-ridden shell of its former self while his ship has been on a mission that required radio silence for a few months, makes the hard call not to take a chance of going ashore in America when they get there but to go back to sea and do what it takes to ensure that CDC scientist Rachel Scott (played most effectively by Rhona Mitra). By now, the world's governments are all but eliminated and only about 20 percent of the world's population remains alive. Chandler decides it is now the Nathan James' mission is not just as an American vessel but as the last hope of the Earth to effect a cure against the raging avian virus and help stave off species extinction.

In the first 60 minutes of the show (well, actually 43 minutes), Chandler and crew have to fight off Russians looking to hijack "the cure," which Dr. Scott still has not formulated, although she does believe she can create an antidote to the virus.

The show is based somewhat on the William Brinkley novel of the same name, which, quite frankly, is about as dull as reading James Fennimore Cooper on a mood suppressor. So all of the big-guns-go-boom action of the show is an improvement on the book, which reads as more of an ode to bombasticism than anything else.

So, yes, all the action in the pilot is a step above the book's plodding plot.

Eric Dane does an excellent job as captain, as Rhona Mitra does as a dedicated and harried scientist. Adam Baldwin, who stars as Chandler's executive officer Mike Slattery, also puts in a believable performance in a show shot with the full cooperation of the United States Navy. The first season consists of ten episodes, so "The Last Ship" has a little time to get viewers interested in saving the planet from a deadly pathogen.

The same premise, plus the occasional band or horde of flesh-eating zombies, brought in great ratings for AMC network's "The Walking Dead." It, too, is a post-apocalyptic drama set in a world where most people are dead or undead, both killed by an onknown pathogen. But watching a show's stars evade being eaten by zombies might have an edge over a more reality-based drama where people are just fearful of touching potential carriers of an unseen disease or trying not to make contact with containers of the virus or vials of blood.

That's why you have to blow up a few things to keep viewers' attention.

We can only hope that "The Last Ship" sails its post-apocalyptic seas with a better following than that which witnessed the disaster that was Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor." Metacritic gives the new TNT series a 60 out of a hundred amongst critics, a 6.5 (out of 10) user score. The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) gives the series a rating of 7.5 (out of 10). It's not an overwhelming endorsement but it isn't terrible. (Besides, nothing is as bad as Bay's "Transformers" franchise, no matter how much money the movies have made. Oh... except for the "Twilight" franchise.)

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