‘Hostages,’ may not hold onto viewers
In its slow pace, CBS drama fails to make a convincing case
August 27, 2013
Since more and more TV drama series are using long story arcs that last for several episodes or even several seasons, more and more episodes are ending with a cliff-hanger that is supposed to be so intriguing that we can’t help tuning in next week.
The premiere episode of CBS’s new fall drama “Hostages” actually ends with a moment that pulls its main character back from the precipice and that will probably push many viewers back from the edge of their seats.
Signaling that the drama, which is scheduled to air only 15 episodes its first season, is going to let the story develop more slowly than we might have thought, the ending lets viewers judge more coolly whether the series will be worth all those hours.
Since the premise is better suited to a 90-minute movie than to a 15-episode series, the show’s creators will have to come up some clever twists to keep us interested. The first episode, unfortunately, suggests they don’t have enough tricks up their sleeves to go the distance.
In the first episode, airing on Monday, Sept. 23, at 10 p.m., Dr. Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) is taken hostage in her home by four masked intruders, along with her husband, Brian (Tate Donovan), daughter, Morgan (Quinn Shephard), and son, Jake (Mateus Ward). Ellen is scheduled to perform brain surgery on President Kincaid (James Naughton) the next day.
Through a flashback showing the 12 hours leading up to that point, we learn that Ellen’s husband and kids each have a secret. We also see a handsome FBI agent, Duncan Carlisle (Dylan McDermott), being all badass and rule-breaky as he handles a different hostage-taking situation.
The home invaders plan to force Ellen to kill the president on the operating table. They promise that if she follows their orders no one in her family will be harmed.
The bad guys prove to be well organized, but they don’t seem to have put together one of those plots that are so ingenious and complex that they defy credibility, as on NBC’s new drama “The Blacklist,” which will premiere on the same date and in the same time slot.
Along the way, it’s hinted that the bad guys might not be as bad as their methods suggest. But it also seems that the driving force in the drama will be a clash of wits and will, not an examination of moral choices.
We’re a little surprised when we learn who is leading the hostage-taking team. We’re less surprised when we learn who is the big villain who hired the team.
It’s difficult to say exactly from where the writers may have drawn certain plot elements, but too many feel familiar.
Although Tate Donovan lays out his character’s shallow psyche quickly, the other principals are more opaque. Both Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott maintain their equilibrium in situations that would leave most of us unbalanced. They may be saving their emotional outbursts for later episodes, but so far, their underplaying leaves us viewers under-involved.
The fact that all of Ellen’s family members are somewhat morally compromised makes us care less about their fate, not more.
A show like “Hostages” really only has one chance to sink the hook into viewers. This premiere lets us get away.
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