The Last Templar -- TV Review

So this is the "last" Templar, huh? I didn't know there was ever another, so it's difficult to get too excited about its final go-round.

By the way, good luck trying to find "templar" in Webster's. From the looks of this four-hour slog of a miniseries from the RHI stable of Robert Halmi Sr. and Jr., the word must be defined as "expensive longform projects that devote 95% of their budget to production values and 5% to plotting."

The deep-pocketed Halmi men do nothing on the cheap, and this "Romancing the Stone" wannabe looks as spiffy as we'd expect. It no doubt cost as much as NBC's entire primetime production outlay for 2008-09 (though the Peacock's license fee was by necessity low). But after about an hour of jumbled storytelling and bizarre juxtapositions between the 13th century Latin Kingdom and 21st century New York, the prediction is you'll be less intrigued by the legend of the medieval Knights Templar than you will the prospect of catching up on your reading.

"The Last Templar" is a dizzying (in the vertigo sense) pastiche of religious symbolism, action adventure and bubbleheaded flirtation between leads Mira Sorvino and Scott Foley of "The Unit" and "Felicity" fame. The romantic element is undercut early on when the squabbling twosome winds up in a passionate embrace less than 15 minutes in. So much for building the sexual electricity.

The tale adapted by scribe Suzette Couture from a Raymond Khoury novel centers on a huge secret involving ancient Vatican treasures -- whoa, pope conspiracy! -- museums, shipwrecks and deep mystery that spans the centuries. Sorvino is a Manhattan archaeologist, Foley an FBI agent, so naturally they clash with abandon while falling in love pretty much instantly.

None other than Omar Sharif also shows up as a helpful Greek savant with a really scruffy beard (hey, c'mon, he's a savant), and Victor Garber ("Alias") portrays your basic high-level Vatican envoy -- like there's another kind.

Paolo Barzman's direction tends to accentuate the lush locales and scenery over the players, a stylistic choice rooted no doubt in the two-nighter's international prospects. But say this for "Last Templar": Its ambition, if not its creative merits, is admirable at a time when lame unscripted programming remains the bargain-basement time filler of choice.


Airdates: 9-11 p.m. Sunday-Monday, Jan. 25-26 (NBC)
Production: Muse Entertainment, RHI Entertainment
Cast: Mira Sorvino, Scott Foley, Victor Garber, Omar Sharif, Anthony Lemke, Danny Blanco Hall, Rebecca Windheim
Executive producers: Michael Prupas, Robert Halmi Sr., Robert Halmi Jr.
Supervising producer: Sandrine Gros d'Aillon
Producer: Irene Litinsky
Writer: Suzette Couture
Based on the novel by: Raymond Khoury
Director: Paolo Barzman
Director of photography: Thomas Burstyn
Production designer: Zoe Sakellaropoulo
Costume designer: Mario Davignon
Editor: Arthur Tarnowski
Music: Normand Corbeil
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