Over the next few months, we’ll see new series soar, old series sour, and so much Jersey Shore madness, we’ll want to shower. Let’s face it: The Fall TV season is intimidating. With dozens of new and returning shows hitting our small screens, we know we have some big choices to make. So, to help you determine what to watch, we’re digging deep into the most notable series premiering this season. Where did each show leave off? Where is it headed? And who should you watch it with? Next up is ABC's submarine show that definitely isn't the same as Lost, okay? Last Resort sails into its Thursday night slot Sept. 27, and we'll let you know just what kind of training you'll need before diving in. New show: Last Resort Network: ABC Premiere Date: Sept. 27 at 8 PM ET Stars (including Scott Speedman, in case you missed that): Some of us have been waiting to see Ben Covington (thief of Felicity’s fragile, baby bird of a heart) return to TV, and now he has. Welcome aboard, Mr. Speedman. Also, Andre Braugher of the now defunct Men of a Certain Age stars with support from Autumn Reeser and Robert Patrick, an appearance from Glee’s beloved Karofsky (Max Adler), and a handful of other folks whose names we’ve yet to learn. Street TV Cred: It’s from Shawn Ryan, the TV wizard who brought us The Shield and the fantastic, yet wildly undervalued, Terriers. He knows his way around a good drama. What you’ll have to give up to watch it: It airs on Thursday night at 8 PM, also known as one the toughest slots on television. Your DVR only allows you to record two shows, so what’s going to get the boot? Last Resort is up against five network series: 30 Rock (Weekend Update until the election), Up All Night, The X Factor, The Big Bang Theory, and Two and a Half Men. You’re going to need some time to think about this. I’m going to give you a minute while the rest of us enjoy this GIF: So it’s about a submarine? What else?: Well, there’s a crew on the submarine. They’ve all got their individual problems, but no one has bigger problems than XO Sam Kendall (Speedman) and Captain Marcus Chaplain. Sam is unbearably separated from his brand-new, adorable wife and Marcus just lost his son, and of course both of them are faced with a challenge when the sub receives a questionable order to fire on Pakistan. Cue the disconnect between the upper eschelon of government commands and the crew of the U.S.S. Colorado. And it’s not long before the U.S. gives Sam and Marcus an excuse to start their own rebellion on a faraway island. That’s really all the information you should really know before getting into it; twisting your brain into a pretzel as you learn everything else is half the fun! Imma let you finish, but: Before you decide you don’t like it because it’s “super leftist because the sub crew is fighting the government” or “far right because it’s a commentary on how unhappy we are with the current (ahem, Obama) administration,” just stop. The series doesn’t take a political stance, but rather a human stance: Something up top isn’t working, so maybe we can fix it. Now, whether or not that is possible is a fate to be seen, but then again, that’s kind of the point. "Fashion" moment: Dudes (i.e. Speedman) look great in blue camou. Take heed, men. Wine and cheese pairing: Is there such a thing as military issue booze? Probably not. So try whatever run-of-the-mill red wine you can find and some sort of inoffensive cheese – something that a crew of navy guys could get into, like cheddar or pepper jack. Keep it simple, you’ll need most of your brain power to figure out how all these plot pieces fit together anyway. Who to watch with: Do you have a relative who was in the Navy? A neighbor? A friend who plays a lot of Call of Duty? Close enough. Invite them over. You’re going to have some questions. Who NOT to watch with: Any friend who often uses the phrase “It’s just a TV show” to justify blabbing over important dialogue. There’s a lot of it. How to justify watching: “This will all make sense eventually, right?” Also acceptable: "But Scott Speedman's in it!" What to wear while watching it: A snuggie. This is not a social event show. You won’t be inviting people over for cosmos and a little Last Resort after a gourmet dinner of foie gras and figs in a balsamic reduction. Go ahead, put on your sweats. You know you’ve been thinking about it all day. What to yell at the TV: “Wait, what? What’s going on?” And then, to yourself: “SHHHHH” because the next important plot point is about to be revealed. Cringeworthy moment: Washington lobbyist, Kylie Sinclair (Autumn Reeser), making out with and straddling a nameless, hot guy in her underwear while describing the capabilities of the U.S.S. Colorado submarine like she’s talking dirty. Nothing gets a person all revved up like a giant, sandwich-shaped vehicle sending sonar pings into the watery abyss, right? Character to know: Did we mention Scott Speedman is on this show? And that he’s in charge and pining after his gorgeous wife who’s waiting for him back in the good ol’ U.S. of A? (Okay, okay. I'll stop.) Word to the wise: Seriously. When I say the plot is complicated, I mean it’s complicated. It’s got more moving pieces than a Transformer. My advice? Come into this show mentally prepared to listen, watch, and absorb. Put down the iPad (the half-naked lady who shows up in the first five minutes in will help), close your laptop, tell the friend you’re texting you’re going to be busy for an hour, and actually watch the episode. Otherwise, you don’t stand a chance of really understanding what this show’s about. Facial expression while watching: Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler [Photo Credit: Mario Perez/ABC] More: 'Last Resort' EPs on 'Lost' Comparisons and Scott Speedman Romance Fun with Ratings: 'Vegas' Gamble Pays Off For CBS, No Luck For 'Mindy' and 'Ben & Kate' Get Ready for Tonight's Alien Invasion of 'The Neighbors' on ABC
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.