'The Last Templar'


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. The romantic element is undercut 15 minutes in when the squabbling duo winds up in a passionate embrace. So much for building the sexual electricity.

The tale adapted by Suzette Couture from a Raymond Khoury novel centers on a huge secret involving ancient Vatican treasures, 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 quickly falling in love.

None other than Omar Sharif shows up as a helpful Greek savant, and Victor Garber is your basic high-level Vatican envoy.

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 "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.