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TV Review - Asteroid hurtles toward Earth in CBS series 'Salvation'

July 7, 2017 Updated: July 7, 2017 at 3:22 pm
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SALVATION, a suspense thriller that centers on Liam Cole, an MIT grad student, and Darius Tanz a tech superstar, who bring Pentagon official Grace Barrows a staggering discovery -- that an asteroid is just six months away from colliding with Earth, premieres Wednesday, July 12th at 9PM ET/PT on CBS Television Network. Pictured: Jennifer Finnigan, Santiago Cabrera, Charlie Rowe. Photo: Sven Frenzel/CBS ©2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved

Cast: Santiago Cabrera ("Heroes," "Transformers: The Last Night"), Jennifer Finnigan ("Tyrant"), Charlie Rowe ("Red Band Society"), Jacquelin Byers ("Roadies"), Shazi Raja ("High Maintenance"), Ian Anthony Dale ("The Hangover") and newcomer Rachel Drance

Airs: The series premieres at 9 p.m. Wednesday on CBS

The premise: Liam Cole (Charlie Rowe) is an MIT grad student and astrophysicist. After several failed attempts to develop an algorithm to map the solar system, he finally succeeds, and the results aren't good. Liam quickly discovers that an asteroid is six months from colliding with the Earth.

Highs: Over the past few years, CBS has proven it has the formula for making summer popcorn TV series down to a science. In 2015, the network introduced viewers to "Zoo," a show in which animals realized humanity was the cause of all the world's problems, and it was time to take them out. The underrated "BrainDead," starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Tony Shalhoub, made its debut in 2016. It featured aliens taking over the minds of politicians with humorous and often gruesome results.

This year, CBS continues its summer tradition of dramas with a sci-fi twist with "Salvation," a series with enough danger to make you a bit nervous yet with just enough fluff to let you know everything's going to be OK. The show focuses on the nerdy yet likable Liam Cole. When he discovers the asteroid is going to hit Earth, he heads to a trusted professor. When the professor disappears the next day and Liam is chased by a mysterious black SUV, he turns to MIT alum Darius Tanz (Santiago Cabrera) for help.

Clearly modeled after Tony Stark and Elon Musk, Tanz is the idealization of the benevolent benefactor. Handsome, whip smart and socially calculating, Darius Tanz is a man who seems to have all the answers. With his ability to hobnob with powerful people and clearly superior intellect, solving Earth's problem should be a breeze. Tanz and new pal Liam are dealing with more than an asteroid, however. A nosy low-level reporter is sniffing out the truth; a deputy secretary of defense is keeping secrets; and Liam's college professor and a DOD employee have disappeared.

A lot of moving parts and conspiracies in "Salvation" keep things interesting, if slightly confusing. Luckily, the pace of the series doesn't allow you to think too much. "Salvation" moves briskly, giving you a whiff of menace before moving on to a new problem to solve.

Lows: A speedy pace is great, but sometimes the action moves so fast that relationships in the series suffer. For example, Liam meets a girl named Jillian (Jacqueline Byers) at a seminar and later sees her at a bar. They hit it off, and Liam is instantly in love. I've heard of love at first sight, but 12 hours is a bit ridiculous. After Liam tells Darius about the asteroid, they visit Harris Edwards (Ian Anthony Dale), the deputy secretary of defense. Within two minutes, Darius persuades him to share the government's plan for the asteroid and gets Liam instant top secret clearance. All of this happened within 20 minutes of the first episode.

If the pilot is any indication, the bond between characters in "Salvation" is marginal, which would minimize viewers' investment in any outcome. One hopes that will change as the series progresses.

Grade (B-): Summer is a great time for TV programs that draw you in without requiring a lot of effort on the viewer's part. If you need escapism with a little tension, CBS has you covered with "Salvation."

Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.

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