Even with DVRs, Hulu, and that secret government technology that only some of us have, there's simply not enough time to commit to all of the fall TV season's new shows. Thankfully, we've done you a solid and watched everything very closely. So closely, in fact, that we're now deeply familiar with Dylan McDermott's permastubble. I'm here to give you the lowdown on CBS's only new drama series of the fall, the 15-episode event something-or-other Hostages.
So everybody's a hostage or something? What is this show?
Kind of. Hostages is thriller about a high-profile surgeon and her family who are taken hostage; their captors are a group of goons led by an anti-hero-y, rogue FBI agent. She's ordered to "accidentally" let her next patient die on the operating table, or the bad guys will kill her family. That patient? The President of the United States. DUN DUN DUN.
Who are the hostages, the hostage-takers, and the Hostages-makers?
Being CBS and all, this is one of the season's better, more high-profile new casts. Toni Collette, last seen just slaying fools on United States of Tara, stars as the conflicted, terrified doctor. Dylan McDermott (American Horror Story, Dark Blue, The Practice) is in full McDermott mode here as the complicated FBI agent who in one scene solves a hostage situation by making a bold choice, then visits his sick wife in the hospital, and then takes the Sanders family hostage. Dude's complex. Tate Donovan plays the husband of Collette's character and he's basically an older, tamer version of The O.C.'s Jimmy Cooper. Day After Tomorrow scribe Jeffrey Nachmanoff adapted the script from an Israeli project, and CBS's go-to drama-series bro Jerry Bruckheimer is an executive producer.
When do negotiations begin?
Hostages debuts on Monday, September 23 at 10pm, booting Hawaii Five-0 from its timeslot of three years. The competition won't be easy, as ABC will trot out Castle at 10pm for yet another year, while NBC plans to counter with its own high-profile new drama starring another former star of a David E. Kelley show with James Spader and The Blacklist. In what is still a pretty novel idea for CBS, Hostages will run just 15 episodes, straight through, in an attempt to create a cable-like adult thriller in a later hour.
Who will be taken (ZING) with Hostages?
Probably your dad. More seriously, Hostages feels a little outside the typical CBS wheelhouse, which is obviously the point. Some of the sequences recall various moments from 24's run, even though it never reaches that level of intensity. If you liked Jack Bauer, this is probably for you. And in a general sense, this wouldn't seem too out-of-place on FX's schedule, so if you especially enjoy that network's more adrenaline-pumping programming, Hostages might be a nice Monday fix.
What about Hostages will give you Stockholm Syndrome?
Toni Collette, mostly. The pilot doesn't give her as much to do as it should, considering how central she is to the story, but she manages to make weak material better by sheer force of will. Although this role is nowhere near as complex as her performance on United States of Tara, she acclimates herself to broadcast drama pretty well. And despite concerns about its longevity, the show's premise is, theoretically, compelling. The pilot follows a decent structure that introduces relevant characters before jumping into the hostage conceit, and though none of it is particularly original, it's solidly executed in the early going.
What will make you want to escape?
So, about that premise. The last third of the opening episode is mostly stupid, and just when you've spent most of the hour wondering how the show will get around its obvious storytelling hurdles, the final moments reveal that Nachmanoff and Bruckheimer have no problem just taking the easy way out. The conclusion is a "Well, duh" moment, even though you'd expect the show to have a better plan than that in Episode 1.
Unfortunately, it seems like the way Hostages plans to sustain itself for multiple episodes is to uncover a whole slew of secrets about individual members of the Sanders family, but they're already boring. The two kids aren't particularly promising, and they're hamstrung with lame stories about "scandalous" love and drugs.
Worst of all, though, is McDermott. I can appreciate his kind of strong-jawed staring-and-yelling style of acting, but the script certainly doesn't do him any favors. He's a walking anti-hero cliche as the inherent Good Man Doing Bad Things for Good Reasons. I noted that Collette doesn't get that much to do in Episode 1, and that's because it's so focused on McDermott and his sullen eyes and leather jackets. He doesn't play by the rules! But he loves his sick wife! It's not hard to imagine this character hanging out with the dudes from Low Winter Sun after hours, just really FEELING THE WEIGHT OF IT ALL, MAN.
So, should lock myself into this 15-week ride or not?
Despite my criticisms, there's a chance that Hostages could be entertaining in future weeks, for better or for worse. I can imagine a world where it's like an anthology of all the really terrible episodes of 24, with multi-level government conspiracies and lots of white guys yelling at people to do things OR ELSE. Or maybe the writers will realize the inherent silliness in the premise and just put the pedal to the metal, giving us a dumb but entertaining thriller. Plus, the shorter episode order makes it a little easier to commit up front, at least for a handful of episodes.
Can I spy a trailer?
You know it. Here it is.
Hostages premieres Monday, September 23 at 10pm on CBS.