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The submarine is front and center in new ABC series

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published September 23. 2012 4:00AM

Submariners seem to be harsh critics when it comes to fictional depictions of submarines.

That is certainly the impression one gets reading comments on some of the submarine blogs about the new ABC series "Last Resort," which officially premieres Thursday.

The show's full pilot episode is online. You can watch it at abc.go.com.

Accurate or not, submarine life and procedures get a lot of exposure in "Last Resort," a thriller with a twisting, cliff-hanger plot in which an Ohio-class boomer goes rogue.

The fictional submarine Colorado first ignores an order to fire nuclear missiles at Pakistan because it came through a secondary communications system, not directly from Washington. Meanwhile, the sub has surfaced long enough to catch some television news coverage of political turmoil at home.

The sub eventually ducks its missile-firing responsibilities and takes refuge in the harbor of an isolated island with a NATO base. In the resulting standoff, it even ends up directing one of its missiles back at Washington.

"It was ridiculously unrealistic from any perspective, but it could be an interesting show nonetheless," wrote one poster on bubbleheads.blogspot.com, a popular blog where submariners congregate to chat about subs and sub news.

Actually, I thought unrealistic but interesting was a good description of the new series. I liked the pilot.

But you don't have to know submarines well to realize that this television account of life on a big Navy sub is full of exaggeration.

I doubt, for instance, that there is quite as much romantic and sexual tension among men and women crew members in the real new world of co-ed submarines.

"Wow! Look at all the babes. Where do I sign up," wrote one blog poster.

Another poster made reference to a recent news story, one broken by The Day, about a submarine captain who lost his command after faking his death to a woman with whom he had been having an affair.

After all, the poster suggested, referring also to recent stories about submarine groundings and supply officers being busted for fraud, maybe the crazy plot twists of "Last Resort" are not all that implausible.

When I called ABC to find out more about the submarine in "Last Resort," a spokesman wrote back to explain that no Navy cooperation was sought. They hired a retired submariner as a consultant and built their own set for the interior sub scenes. The producers didn't want to ask for any Navy assistance because it would have required script approval, the spokesman added.

Clearly, "Last Resort" didn't get the Navy to approve its script or we wouldn't have seen the crew dancing to loud music as the ship crossed the equator, almost missing notice of the order to file a missile at Pakistan.

Still, the interior of the sub looks realistic. And there is a great opening sequence of a sub surfacing alongside a small boat with Navy SEALs, who are then brought on to the ship.

I doubt the Navy would approve of much of the depictions in "Last Resort." But I also suspect the Navy submarine brass must enjoy seeing a big boomer play a lead role in a major new network TV series, especially as it looks menacing and relevant in a new world order of political and military turmoil.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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