new television show: E-Ring
Wednesdays, 8 PM on NBC
There are five rings that comprise the Pentagon but the most important one is the outer one, the E-ring.
In this new series, created by David McKenna and Ken Robinson, and executive produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Benjamin Bratt portrays Major Jim Tinewski, new to the Pentagon, who brings fresh thinking and heart to the cold, calculating world of upper echelon military politics. His foils are Dennis Hopper as Col. McNulty and Aunjanue Ellis as Sgt Pierce. McNulty is, of course, crusty and has his own rebelious streak. Sgt Pierce is a humourless, uptight lifesaver who knows all the bureaucratic hoops and procedures that need to be met. Naturally, as it just so happens, Maj Tinewski's main squeeze works for the CIA and is able to unofficially give him feedback and advice, totally off the record and against her better judgement. Joe Morton (Terminator 2) shows up as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Ops, Steven Algazi.
The pilot, Snatch and Grab, featured a Chinese operative on the run, apparently with some very important intelligence. She's trying to escape the authorities but her CIA handlers don't know if they can get her safely out. The problem invovles a US Navy rescue mission being detected by the Chinese and possibly being interpreted as a first strike.
Episode two suffers from the usual problems of having a big problem with potentially deadly stakes, some huge hurdles to climb over in order to get permission to implement the plan and finally a neatly packaged resolution with a little of the good guys' blood shed for a little extra drama. The Major tasks his old unit, ready to head home, to stick around for a couple of more days to snatch an Arab terrorist planner. Totally predictable. E-ring is like a Tom Clancy movie squished into
an hour. The gee-whiz high-tech graphics and secret military infrastructure only carry the show so far, which is not far at all, actually. The dialogue in this episode in once again incredibly cheesy and patriotic. This is the kind of media that Team America: World Police spoofs.
At 69, Dennis Hopper looks too old to be in the military, but I suppose they wanted someone in the show with a profile the public would recognize. He goes through the motions and more of a sterotype than a well-rounded character. Benjamin Bratt was very good as someone with a heart but also the guts to take the initiative. Bratt's star will rise with this show, although I don't know if it will last as the audience will be exhasted by "mission impossible" episodes that neatly wrap up in one hour. They would have a much more interesting show if stories would span multiple episodes and hold our attention with intelligent writing. Unfortunately, large mainstream audiences probably wouldn't have the attention span needed.
Co-creator Ken Robinson is a former Green Beret and has consulted for CNN. Can he inject some intrigue into this otherwise cheesy drama? Time will tell. Veteran filmmaker Taylor Hackford (Ray, An Officer And A Gentleman), directed the pilot.