CBS sum­mer se­ries of­fers Sal­va­tion on Wed­nes­day nights

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - RICK BENT­LEY

The lat­est new sum­mer of­fer­ing from CBS, “Sal­va­tion,” con­tin­ues a trend the net­work has had so much suc­cess with in the past. Just like “Un­der the Dome,” “Ex­tant” and “Zoo,” “Sal­va­tion” starts with a world-shak­ing de­vel­op­ment and cre­ates ten­sion from ef­forts to deal with the threat while un­fold­ing in what can only be a fi­nite num­ber of episodes. Face it. By the time “The Dome” came tum­bling down, it was time to go to an­other sum­mer dis­as­ter.

The dis­as­ter faced in “Sal­va­tion” is a gi­ant as­ter­oid whose ETA on Earth is in 186 days. The space rock is big enough that it will end all life on the planet.

Liam Cole (Char­lie Rowe) is an MIT stu­dent who splits his time be­tween gaz­ing into space and look­ing to make a close en­counter of the in­ti­mate kind. He makes a con­nec­tion with both on the same night. The hap­pi­ness he feels meet­ing some­one he knows he could love to the end of time is tem­pered by the real pos­si­bil­ity that the end of time could come in six months.

Cole shares his find­ings with Dar­ius Tanz (San­ti­ago Cabr­era), a tech wizard who is as smart as he is good look­ing. Tanz is the only per­son who has more re­sources and knowl­edge to at­tack the prob­lem than the gov­ern­ment.

Nei­ther Cole nor Tanz know that the gov­ern­ment has known about the gi­ant rock for three months and un­der the watch­ful eye of Har­ris Ed­wards (Ian An­thony Dale), the deputy sec­re­tary of de­fence, a plan has been put in mo­tion. Once Ed­wards finds out Tanz has learned about the rock, he goes into full po­lit­i­cal mode re­veal­ing the plans for the rocket ship to save the day. Ed­wards also loops in the Pen­tagon press sec­re­tary, Grace Bar­rows ( Jen­nifer Fin­ni­gan), who also hap­pens to be his se­cret lover.

The idea that the Earth is headed to­ward doom isn’t orig­i­nal as there have been count­less movies (“Seek­ing a Friend for the End of the World”) and TV pro­grams (“You, Me and the Apoc­a­lypse”) deal­ing with the im­pend­ing end of all hu­man­ity. That kind of sto­ry­line fa­mil­iar­ity is OK with a sum­mer re­place­ment se­ries, as they aren’t de­signed to be strong enough to work for 22 episodes as would be the case with a fall launch. “Sal­va­tion” has a first sea­son or­der of 13 episodes and that kind of lim­ited se­ries is good for some orig­i­nal dis­trac­tion usu­ally re­served for re­runs.

And, com­pared to all of the for­get­table game shows and re­al­ity shows that are con­sum­ing sum­mer net­work time like a vi­ral virus, any scripted prod­uct au­to­mat­i­cally earns a high mark.

“Sal­va­tion” doesn’t need that kind of sym­pa­thy be­cause it takes an old con­cept and gives it life through strong cast­ing and some in­ter­est­ing plot paths. Those el­e­ments are strong enough to save CBS’ sum­mer rat­ings from be­ing hit by a gi­ant block of ap­a­thy from view­ers.

The fact that the pro­duc­ers were smart enough to move Dale from the kind of hit-and-miss work he got on “Hawaii Five-0” to a star­ring role is a ma­jor plus. Dale’s per­fect in the role as a man who knows how to sur­vive in a po­lit­i­cal world but still shows some signs of hu­man­ity. Too of­ten, this kind of char­ac­ter would be a sneer­ing stereo­type driven only by greed or self-preser­va­tion.

Cabr­era also man­ages to take what is tra­di­tion­ally an un­like­able role as the guy with more brains and money than any­one else in the room and give the char­ac­ter both a warm and fun side. The main thing is he plays the role with just enough con­fi­dence to make him the kind of per­son you can trust will save the day but with­out any swag­ger.

The fi­nal key player is Rowe who takes the place of a Greek cho­rus as he’s of­ten re­duced to ex­plain­ing in un­der­stand­able terms what the ma­jor play­ers are say­ing. It comes across as a lit­tle forced but the in­for­ma­tion does end up be­ing handy.

As long as the emo­tional threads don’t be­come so tightly drawn they choke the rest of the story, “Sal­va­tion” will be able to give new life to an old tale of the end of life. Toss in some high pro­duc­tion val­ues and “Sal­va­tion” is a treat. Sum­mers are busy times but make the com­mit­ment to this show be­cause it won’t re­quire a lot of deep thought. “Sal­va­tion” can be en­joyed purely as a light treat.

“Sal­va­tion” 9 p.m. Wed­nes­days, on CBS.

BEN MARK HOLZBERG, CBS

Liam Cole (played by Char­lie Rowe) is an MIT stu­dent in “Sal­va­tion.”

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