Pilot Preview: CBS's Star-studded Thriller Hostages
Hey you! This isn't a review, it's a PREview. Huge difference. Most notably, the "P." Also, these PREviews are based on early cuts of pilots that might change drastically by the time they officially hit the air, so we can't properly review them. But we CAN give you an idea of what to expect. In this series of early looks at the new shows of fall 2013, there's no contemplating, no deep analysis; just super-duper quick thoughts on what we just watched that we're passing on to you. We'll revisit each previewed show in the fall with the hyper-intellectual breakdowns and fart jokes you're used to from us goons here at TV.com.
Hostages – Mondays starting September 23 at 10pm on CBS
STARRING AND CREATED BY: CBS loves its star power, and Hostages has two shiny ones in Toni Collette (United States of Tara) and Dylan McDermott (The Practice) as the good girl and the bad guy. Tate Donovan (Damages), Quinn Shepherd, and Mateus Ward round out Collette's family, and Billy Brown (Dexter), Sandrine Holt (24), and Rhys Coiro (Entourage) play the bad guys. Adaptations of Israeli TV series are so popular these days that Hostages is based on one that didn't even get made! Jeffrey Nachmanoff (The Day After Tomorrow) wrote the pilot, Jerry Bruckheimer slapped his name on the project as producer, and Rick Eid (CSI) will serve as showrunner.
THE GIST: Ellen Sanders (Collette) is your typical genius surgeon who's due to perform a life-saving operation on the president of the United States. However, mysterious FBI agent Duncan Carlisle (McDermott) wants the POTUS dead. So Carlisle comes up with a plan that involves taking Sanders' family hostage and threatening to shoot their faces off unless Sanders botches the surgery and surgery-murders the commander in chief. It's up to Sanders to decide whether to save her family or the president—or, if she's as crafty as we think she is, both! CBS is planning Hostages as a 15-episode series with the possibility of adding extra seasons (similar to what it did with Under the Dome).
SNAP JUDGMENT: CBS is putting a lot of weight behind this one, with Collette and McDermott driving the ship, but early on it's a silly thriller built on cat-and-mouse games and empty threats. The most obvious problem is the pilot's dull pacing; a hostage situation should be thrilling, but since Hostages doesn't do anything unique with it, the pilot is a slow bore. It doesn't help that the episode starts in media res, so that we know the family gets taken hostage, or that it's right there in the logline that they get taken hostage, making the whole process of them being taken hostage a foregone and time-wasting conclusion. But that's what happens for the first half of the episode, and there's no effort to drum up any excitement. The cliches are extra forced; each member of the Sanders family has their own secrets, and if I gave you five seconds to guess what they are, you'd probably have three seconds to spare. What does work here is that Carlisle immediately seems like a deep character, and his mysterious motivation is the only thing of note in the pilot—he's a great morally ambiguous villain. Who cares if the president lives or dies? I want to know why Carlisle's trying to kill him. Unfortunately, that's the only thing the series underplays (and to great effect). Everything else smacks you in the head to absolutely make sure you know what's going on. And I'm not usually one to say this, but Hostages needs more explosions or something.
PILOTITIS DIAGNOSIS: Hostages has a severe case of pilotitis, and it's nearly fatal. The first episode is basically an hour-long enactment of the logline. Feel free to start with Episode 2.
FACES TO LOOK OUT FOR: Billy Brown was fantastic as August in the fifth season of Sons of Anarchy. Here, he's a great presence as a man who keeps his cool until it's time to not be cool anymore. I'm scared of him.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: How in the heck is CBS going to make a whole series out of this? The premise of the series is that either she kills the president or she doesn't, and then what? Without giving too much away, there's a bit of a reset at the end of the pilot that prolongs that outcome, but I'm not sure whether it's a direction we want the show to go in. Homeland faced a similar issue, but Hostages looks like it will just delay the inevitable instead of changing its game. Also, doesn't this idea seem like the plot of a Denzel Washington movie?
EXCITEMENT LEVEL: Pretty low. But out of curiosity, I would like to see how producers eventually stretch this 90-minute movie across 15 hours of television. Even though we're looking at a very weak fall season for dramas, this mechanical thriller is a big disappointment. On the old 1 to 10 scale, Hostages is around a 4.
PILOT PREVIEW POWER RANKINGS:
(Where we rank the fall season's pilots based on very early impressions)
1. Almost Human - J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman's robotic buddy-cop drama
2. The 100 - Teens have fun (and die) on post-apocalyptic Earth while the adults fight each other in a big tin can orbiting the planet
3. Intelligence - Josh Holloway stars as a Cyber Command agent who has Wi-Fi in his brain
4. The Blacklist - James Spader is a master criminal who turns himself in to the FBI on one condition: He only works with the pretty new FBI agent
5. Hostages - Toni Collette is a doctor whose family is taken hostage and will be killed by Dylan McDermott's character unless she kills the president in surgery
6. Dracula - Jonathan Rhys Meyers is the fanged one in this re-imagining of the classic story of an undead guy chasing his old girlfriend
7. Lucky 7 - A group of gas-station employees win the lottery, for better or worse
1. Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Andy Samberg and a bunch of buffoons are cops in Brooklyn
2. Trophy Wife - Malin Akerman marries into a big family and ends up with two ex-wives and three stepchildren in the process
3. The Crazy Ones - Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar are a father-daughter team in the advertising business
4. Mom - Anna Faris and Allison Janney play a mother and daughter with life problems
5. Enlisted - Geoff Stults goes to army reject camp with his two brothers
6. About a Boy - Jason Katims' TV adaptation of the film adaption of Nick Hornby's novel about a man-boy friendship
7. Super Fun Night - Rebel Wilson and her loser friends hit the social scene
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