Rogue Sub’s Nuke; Devil’s Highrise; U.K.’s Midwife: TV

'Last Resort'
Scott Speedman and Andre Braugher in ABC's "Last Resort." The series was created by Shawn Ryan and Karl Gajdusek. Photographer: Mario Perez/ABC via Bloomberg

Cruising a line between bold and absurd, ABC’s nuclear stand-off saga “Last Resort” makes quite an entrance.

“We got their attention,” says the captain of the rogue USS Colorado, a nuclear sub that has just lit up the Atlantic with a mushroom cloud visible from D.C. to N.Y.

Created by Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”) and Karl Gajdusek (“Dead Like Me”), “Last Resort” is a big-concept drama crammed with high-stakes bluffing, special effects, paranoid politics and much to prove.

Andre Braugher plays Captain Marcus Chaplin, a devoted Navy man who questions the legitimacy of an order to nuke Pakistan.

When he balks, the U.S. government (or whatever shadowy group has infiltrated it) bombs and almost cripples the ship, sending Chaplin and his crew to a remote island and NATO outpost.

“I think we found our oasis,” Chaplin tells his sturdy second-in-command (Scott Speedman).

With a globe-threatening arsenal, Chaplin warns U.S. forces to keep away, demonstrating his seriousness by launching a nuclear missile that explodes, victimless, 200 miles east of Washington.

As the renegades divide into factions and fend off attacks from outsiders, “Last Resort,” filmed in Hawaii, shares more than appearances with “Lost.” Maintaining interest beyond the central gimmick will be tricky over the long haul.

But the pilot crackles, the central performances are solid, and the writing shrewdly, if cynically, taps a national mood of mistrust and Cold War longing.

Says Chaplin: “What happened to the country I grew up in?”

“Last Resort” airs Thursday on ABC at 8 p.m. New York time. Rating: ***1/2

“666 Park Avenue”

You risk disappointment by imagining Ruth Gordon nosing her way down the spooky halls of “666 Park Avenue,” ABC’s decent new thriller haunted by ghosts of its betters.

“Rosemary’s Baby” is only the most obvious chestnut wafting through the creepy basements and Satanically spacious living units of an Upper East Side apartment building.

Unemployed architect Jane (Rachael Taylor) moves into an upscale Gothic beauty as the building’s new resident manager, along with her city planner husband Henry (Dave Annable).

Her employer is Gavin Doran (Terry O’Quinn, from “Lost”), the gruff building owner who might be the devil, or at least knows him well.

The baldheaded boss with watchful eyes certainly has a way with tenants: He grants elaborate wishes -- musical genius here, a dead wife resurrected there -- then demands soul-wrenching payments.

By the end of the first episode, we’re not sure what Doran and his glamorous wife (Vanessa Williams) want from Jane and Henry. Perhaps it has to do with Henry’s influence at City Hall, or Jane’s scholarly interest in the building’s bloody past.

In either case, “666,” created by David Wilcox (“Fringe”) from Gabriella Pierce’s book series, could be fun, even without the bold originality and true frights of FX’s brilliant “American Horror Story.”

“666 Park Avenue” airs Sunday on ABC at 10 p.m. New York time. Rating: ***

“Call the Midwife”

“Call the Midwife,” a warm-hearted British series set in London’s squalid East End of the 1950s, scored the BBC’s highest ratings ever for a drama debut last January.

That’s quite the ballyhoo for this modest charmer, and certainly owes at least a pinch to nostalgia for the great city’s scrappy postwar gumption.

Americans probably won’t feel the same emotional tug when “Midwife” has its U.S. debut on PBS Sunday, but the travails and triumphs of the tale’s heroines make a fine diversion until “Downton Abbey” returns in January.

Based on the late Jennifer Worth’s popular memoirs, “Midwife” follows the naive Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine) as she begins her career in what narrator Vanessa Redgrave pronounces “mid-WIFF-ery.”

Nauseated by human stench, shocked by brutal conditions and appalled by cruel disregard for the poor and pregnant, Jenny finds inspiration and sisterhood in the streetwise nuns who operate the midwives’ nursing order.

“We will see what love can do,” says the ever-patient Sister Julienne (Jenny Agutter), and “Call the Midwife,” sentimental as it is, shows us just that.

“Call the Midwife” airs on PBS Sunday at 8 p.m. New York time. Rating: ****

What the Stars Mean:

***** Fantastic
**** Excellent
*** Good
** So-So
* Poor
(No stars) Avoid

(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Jason Harper on cars.

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