Sunday, June 21, 2015

'The Last Ship' returns and other summer TV fare

If my readers have been counting, I promised three times that I would blog about the season premiere of "The Last Ship" tonight.  I'm making good on that promise, which I first made in the footnote to Razzies and Robocop this past February.
My wife and I are watching "The Last Ship." When I heard it was a Michael Bay show, I knew to expect a lot of action and things being blown up. I have not [been] disappointed.
Some Sunday this summer, I'm going to have to write about "The Last Ship," which is an OK post-apocalyptic drama that probably will seem more relevant and urgent after last year's Ebola epidemic.  For example, in a case of life imitating art, one of the Ebola treatments looked very similar to a treatment for the disease in the TV show.  That's not something I expect out of a Michael Bay production.
In the TV show, the ship's doctor transfuses blood from an immune person picked up during the voyage to the ship's crew who were infected in hopes of transferring her immunity to them.  That's what Scientific American described last summer in Blood Transfusions from Survivors Best Way to Fight Ebola.
Treating Ebola patients with blood transfusions from survivors of the disease should be the immediate priority among all the experimental therapies under consideration for this outbreak, World Health Organization (WHO) experts said Friday after reviewing the status of all the potential experimental therapies and vaccines. “We agreed that whole-blood therapies and convalescent serum may be used to treat Ebola virus disease and that all efforts must be invested into helping affected countries use them safely,” Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director general for health systems and innovation at WHO told reporters. “This is something that would be ready near term.” None of the considered Ebola regimes have yet been adequately tested in humans.

Because survivors of an Ebola infection would typically have produced effective antibodies against the virus (otherwise they wouldn't have survived), transfusions of their blood into a newly infected individual may help that person survive the often fatal disease. Such blood preparations, drawn from volunteers, could be ready before the end of 2014, according to preliminary WHO estimates put out earlier this week. “We have to change the sense that there is no hope in this situation to a realistic hope,” Kieny said during a press conference Friday. She has called for other countries to help affected west African nations to build their capacity to safely do the blood drawing and preparation for what needs to be reinfused into the patients.
A Google search found that this treatment had been proposed back in 1999.  In that case, it looks less like a case of life imitating art, which it would seem to the uninformed, and more an example of a scriptwriter doing his or her homework.  Given how many examples TV Tropes lists of the show's various kinds of artistic license, I'm pleasantly surprised.  Here's to the show providing more victories of sense over sensation, although given that Michael Bay prefers sensation, I'm only guardedly optimistic.  Given the two trailers below, that's probably the right expectation to have.

When a global pandemic wipes out eighty percent of the planet's population, the crew of a lone naval destroyer must find a way to pull humanity from the brink of extinction.
Follow over the jump for more on this show and the rest of this summer's post-apocalyptic TV offerings, including the surprising addition of "Wayward Pines" to the genre.

The Hollywood Reporter gave its readers and fans of the show something more concrete than the trailers in 'The Last Ship' Co-Creators on Season 2: "Finding the Cure Is Really Just the Beginning".
Post-apocalyptic dramas haven’t exactly been in short supply in recent years, but The Last Ship docked at TNT last summer with a slightly unique spin on the genre, focusing on the crew of a U.S. Navy destroyer who unexpectedly find themselves in the position of having to save the world from a global viral pandemic. Having wrapped the first season with a whopper of a cliffhanger, the crew of the U.S.S. Nathan James returns on Sunday to discover that having a cure for the virus doesn’t mean that their mission is at an end.
Watching these guys get out of this mess is the fun of the season opener, and then after that ... really, it sets the tone for the whole rest of the season, because the season is really about home. Finding and making the cure turns out to have been the easy part. Getting the cure where it has to go and trying to do it in a world without civil authority or central authority, a world of panic and devastation, is a lot harder than just coming up with a cure. Season two really becomes an exploration of that part of the pandemic process, and it’s also a journey to America, because they stay on the ship, but they also travel a lot, especially through the south. There are a lot of echoes of post-Civil War America, too, where America was fractured, and we play on those themes as well as we go forward in season two.
Season two is going to ask, “What is home? What do we find when we go home?” The season is all about what America is when they get there, what the state of things is, and how they’re going to deal with it.
As an io9 review I quoted in What a lovely weekend for 'Mad Max' put it, the post-apocalyptic story isn’t so much about the collapse of society’s institutions, but about what replaces them — and he’s fascinated by the twisted attempts to create a functioning society in the ruins of our own."  Looks like even the people Michael Bay hired get that.  Speaking of "getting it," how are they dealing with both reality and their competition?
The apocalyptic genre has been around for a long time, obviously, so we’re not the first, and certainly it’s popular, so we’re not the only game in town. But I honestly don’t really watch the other shows so much. I just focus on the “what if?” scenario in my own show. We’re also dealing with reality a lot more than other shows are. You saw this in western Africa and the outbreak of Ebola: the way they reacted – in some cases with great heroism, in some cases with great cowardice – and the quarantine, whether they worked or didn’t work. We saw it in the panic in the American hospitals when the patients showed up here.
Yes, even they realize that the series became more relevant in light of the Ebola pandemic.  Now, what about other shows?
The only time I really worry about it is if I say, “Oh, I have a great idea,” and I say something, and some 25-year-old on the staff says, “Uh, they did that on The Walking Dead.” (Laughs) If that happens, then I go, “Oh, okay, we should do something different, then.” Otherwise, I really don’t think about it too much, because I’m just focused on our show. What’s unique about our show is that it’s the Navy, that it’s a ship and these characters, so we just take it from there and hope that what we come up with is original.
I may not expect much in terms of scientific accuracy, but I am encouraged that the show will live up to what my wife and I expect from our entertainment.

Speaking of our entertainment, "Wayward Pines" premiered last month, "Defiance" started its third season two weeks ago, and "Falling Skies" returns for its final season next week.  Looking through that list along with "The Last Ship," one might think that "Wayward Pines" would be the winner of a game of "one of these things is not like the others."  After the fifth episode, it's not.  The show started off as "Twin Peaks" meets "Lost," but it's an M. Night Shyamalan show and any movie or show where he has any creative control features a massive twist.  The most recent episode lived up to that implied promise, as Wayward Pines Just Delivered One Of TV's Biggest Shocks Ever.
This is the year 4028. There are the herds of evolved-from-humans “Aberrations,” the most sufficient carnivores on the planet. But who even knows how much meat is left on the planet anyway? (Outside of Wayward Pines butcher shops, that is.) Cities are largely extinct. Everyone alive was put in hibernation chambers, and many of the children will become The First Generation, which makes them responsible for keeping the human race alive and well, as Wayward Pines is a bigger version of Noah’s Ark. NOTHING WILL BE THE SAME!
After that reveal, "Wayward Pines" belongs to the line-up, as it's another post-apocalyptic SF drama, not just a psychological thriller.  Also, it's one of the better twists M. Night Shyamalan has been associated with.  Of course, it helps that it's not one he came up with.

I'll be sure to explore the show in a future Sunday entertainment entry.  I'll do the same for "Falling Skies" and "Defiance" next week, when I'll elaborate on what I wrote in the footnote to Detroit fireworks show continues for yet another year.
The first season of "Defiance" reminded me of "Babylon 5," except on Earth.  The second season so far confirms that impression.  "Falling Skies" looks like "The Walking Dead" with aliens instead of zombies and other people as the antagonists and allies.  Given that I've mentioned "Babylon 5" only once until now, and that in passing, while I've mentioned "The Walking Dead" in at least nine entries so far, it should come as no surprise that I like "Falling Skies" more.
Stay tuned.

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