When you think of casting an action-adventure miniseries built around a female Indiana Jones, the first name to pop into your head probably isn't Mira Sorvino. The actress, who absconded with an Oscar in 1996 as the helium-voiced hooker in "Mighty Aphrodite," is not exactly the classic jump-on-a-horse and fall-off-a-truck type gal.
But that unexpected choice of a heroine gives NBC's "The Last Templar" at least a touch of distinctiveness, a curiosity factor. The two-part miniseries, which airs tomorrow and Monday nights at 9 on Channel 7, is a four-hour exercise in generic nonsense that wants to remind us of "The Da Vinci Code," when it's not mimicking "Romancing the Stone." But watching Sorvino and trying to reconcile her presence in this genre is perversely stimulating and, when her character, Tess, breaks a pair of Manolo Blahniks in a chase scene, curiously entertaining.
Alas, the writers never give Sorvino a handy action-hero catchphrase; that would have been the cherry on this kooky sundae.
Sorvino's Tess is a world-class archaeologist involved in an international search for secrets kept by the medieval Templar knights. She is joined on the trek by FBI agent Sean Daley (Scott Foley), with whom she bickers and flirts, until they kiss. They go to the desert, they go to the sea, they meet a spiritual wise man played by Omar Sharif, who spouts vagaries and truisms such as, "We are all children of God."
They run, they duck, they jump, they escape. There are caves, there is a map, there is a shipwreck that deposits them on the shores of a Greek island. They dig, they climb, and they deal with the intrusions and obstructions of a mean monsignor (Victor Garber), who doesn't want the pair to get to the bottom of the Templar mystery. It's almost campy as Garber shows up in the strangest of places, a prowling Simon Bar Sinister.
There is no good reason for "The Last Templar" to last for two nights (it concludes Monday at 9). With two hours of air sucked out of it, the story - which also flashes back to medieval times - might have been fast-paced enough to distract us from all the plot glitches. But at four hours, you are left with far too much time to ponder the feebleness of the endeavor. If you decide to get on this ride, prepare to be dazzled by little more than the glorious scenery.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.