Fans of good TV know Shawn Ryan, even if they don't know they know Shawn Ryan.
Few producers have racked up his level of critical acclaim, for shows like 'The Unit,' 'Terriers,', 'Lie to Me,' and his signature show, 'The Shield,' which ran 88 episodes between 2002 and 2008, easily ranking among the elite shows of the last 15 years. Ryan's newest effort, 'Last Resort' starring Andre Braugher and Scott Speedman, premieres Thursday night at 8 PT on ABC.
(If you're impatient or have plans that night, you can watch the pilot by clicking here.)
'Last Resort' centers on the U.S.S. Colorado, a (fictional) nuclear submarine captained by Marcus Chapman (Braugher) and his XO (Speedman) fired at (after a series of commands delivered in unorthodox fashion) by another U.S. vessel, damaged, and then forced to go rogue, so to speak. It's a complicated hour of television with a lot of information packed in, but very entertaining and a potential standout on the new fall calendar.
We spoke with Ryan -- a Chicago native and huge sports fan -- about the show, his career, and his take on everything from the NHL lockout to the NFL. Click on the module to hear the show, and use the handy rundown below as a naviational tool, should you be so inclined.
- (3:00) In L.A., the NHL lockout hasn't moved the needle, despite housing the Stanley Cup champion Kings. In Chicago, however, people are very upset, reflecting a difference in the sports cultures of the two cities.
- (6:50) Without getting too political, Ryan laments the efforts to bust employee unions in sports, not just in the NHL but also the NFL with the referees. (And keep in mind, this was recorded before the Week 3 debacles.) He draws on his experience working for the Writer's Guild as a reference point.
- (10:00) As a long suffering Bears fan, what does Ryan make of Jay Cutler, as a quarterback and a leader? Any evaluation, Ryan says, has to be put into context. Specifically, the cavalcade of awful signal callers they've had over the last 15 years, along with a horrible offensive line.
- (17:15) Turning to the show, Ryan explains the inspiration for 'Last Resort,' and how the show developed from concept to full blown production. From there, we discuss the challenges of making a great pilot, particularly one requiring a great deal of exposition.
- (23:00) Like many of today's successful shows, 'Last Resort' is a serialized drama. How does Ryan strike the balance between rewarding loyal viewers and moving a show along while making sure nobody is punished too harshly for missing an episode.
- (26:00) How political a show is 'Last Resort?' Ryan acknowledges the show certainly delves into politics, investigating the distrust of politicians and politics shared by Americans from both sides of the aisle, but believes it's more about power at multiple levels.
- (31:00) Ryan talks about the always outstanding Braugher, what does he bring to the show, and whether there any concern about casting a guy who might still be seen in a certain way by TV fans. A lot of TV honks (Andy, for example) still identify Braugher strongly with Lt. Frank Pembleton, his character on 'Homocide.'
- (37:00) On a show like 'Last Resort,' taking place on a nuclear sub, how much specificity and true-to-life detail is required, but is there such a thing as too much accuracy?