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TBS's 'First' Franchise Solid, If Unspectacular

If you're looking for a fast-paced, standard made-for-TV thriller, TBS Superstation's First Shot
won't disappoint you. It won't surprise you, either.

A follow-up to two prior Superstation telefilms —First Daughter
and First Target
— it's another adventure in the career of Secret Service agent Alex McGregor (Mariel Hemingway) — apparently made-for-cable's answer to the big screen's Jack Ryan. She's now the chief of the detail guarding President Jonathan Hayes (Gregory Harrison).

This installment is more of a sequel to First Daughter, as it involves the brother of the two militia men killed in the climax of that film. The remnants of that now-dissolved militia — the "Freedom Fighters" — regroup in Portland, Ore., and bomb the officers' club at a local military base, killing a score of soldiers.

But that bombing (pretty grisly to watch, given the current political climate) is nothing but a ruse to lure Hayes to Portland, where Adam Carter (Dean Wray) and his fellow Freedom Fighters lie in wait. Hayes is shot on the dais at the memorial service as daughter Jess (Jenna Leigh Green) watches on TV.

At this point, what has been a slow-paced film — spending too much of its first 20 minutes or so on scene-setting back at the White House — really begins to pick up steam. Slowly, as Carter's plot is revealed, it becomes apparent that Carter — who blames MacGregor for his half-brother's death — has a second target: the security chief herself. And he kidnaps her husband, Grant Coleman (Doug Savant), as a means of getting to her.

Director Armand Mastroanni does a good job keeping the pace quick. And though the acting isn't spectacular, it's crisp, which puts this film a slight cut above your average made-for-basic action thriller.

The writing isn't quite so deft, though. There are some threads devoted to the characters' personal lives that don't go anywhere. Others — like the strained relationship between the widowed president's love interest and daughter — have been done to death before.

Overall, First Shot
is a solid if unspectacular effort: It's not must-see TV, but it's a pleasant enough thrill ride.

First Shot
premieres Sunday, August 11 at 8 p.m. on TBS Superstation.