By Paula Hendrickson
We all like different genres, but it’s more often that we dislike certain genres. Me? I’m not much for westerns. Maybe you don’t like musicals. Or perhaps you’d rather watch reality shows than a romantic comedy. But every so often, it’s good to watch an episode or two of something outside your preferred spectrum.
While the idea of a nuclear submarine crew gone rouge might not normally appeal to me, I tuned in to ABC’s Last Resort for two reasons: its co-creator and executive producer is Rockford’s own Shawn Ryan, and it stars one of my favorite actors, Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street, Men of a Certain Age).
Braugher is such a powerful actor he could read instructions for turning on a faucet and audiences would be riveted. Mix Ryan’s great storytelling, Braugher’s skill, a beautiful location and an amazing cast of characters, and you’ve got a series that is more than the sum of its parts — and well worth watching even, if international thrillers aren’t normally your thing.
(Here’s a fun fact about Last Resort that Ryan shared with me for a profile I wrote about him for the summer issue of Northwest Quarterly: Braugher’s character, Captain Marcus Chaplin, is supposed to be from Rockford. That’s not a huge stretch, since Braugher is a Chicago native. The character’s biographical blurb was part of a graphic on a TV news snippet that was cut from the pilot, and Ryan said he and Braugher both know Chaplin is from Rockford.)
The only thing I don’t understand about Last Resort is why ABC scheduled it at 7 p.m. It seems better suited to a later hour.
Another show I tried for similar reasons — great cast, great pedigree — was CBS’s Vegas. Dennis Quaid is ideal in the lead role as a 1960 rancher-turned-lawman and Michael Chiklis is perfectly cast as a smooth gangster. Yet, something just didn’t click for me with the first episode.
I don’t like discounting a new series based on the pilot episode since they need to introduce characters and explain backstories fairly quickly, so I will watch another episode or two of Vegas before rendering a verdict.
While I enjoy listening to some classic Patsy Cline or Johnny Cash songs now and then, I’m not what you’d call a big fan of country music. ABC’s Nashville is one of the most talked about new shows of the season. It doesn’t premiere until Oct. 10, but now that my DVD player decided to start working again, I finally watched it the other day. Am I ever glad I did.
If I hadn’t stepped outside of my usual comfort zone, I would have missed out on what, to me, is the best new series of the season. Nashville is beautifully shot, well-acted, and the original music — despite a slight country twang — is accessible to non-country fans like me.
Some new shows I knew I’d probably like, simply because of the genres: Elementary, Revolution, 666 Park Avenue, Ben & Kate and Go On to name a few. But a couple of my favorite new series will have my friends scratching their heads trying to figure out what exactly I like about Last Resort and Nashville.
It’s simple: they’re well-made programs that pay great attention to tiny details.
Vegas, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBS
Last Resort, Thursdays at 7 p.m. on ABC
Nashville debuts Wednesday, Oct. 10, at 9 p.m. on ABC.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Oct. 3-9, 2012, issue