Hostages: Pilot Review

I was going to write a whole piece here about how the plan for Hostages was going to be unusual. It was going to mimic the structure of American Horror Story, telling a different, self-contained story each season, with different characters and probably different actors. I like this structure. It immediately sidesteps an issue that I often have when watching pilots – how is this going to be sustained over multiple seasons? It’s too easy for shows to degenerate fast when they start stretching their ideas out and introducing new characters and increasingly complicated twists and turns. Re-creating the show each year gives it new energy.

The first unfortunate thing for Hostages is that, it’s not going to get the chance, because by the time the series made it to the UK, it had already been cancelled. Mind you, due to the structure that still means there’s a complete story and shouldn’t really affect your enjoyment of the show. The second unfortunate thing for Hostages was that the structure was the only thing about the show that I did like. I didn’t like the story, I didn’t like the characters, I didn’t like the writing and I didn’t like the tone.

I thought it was going to be quite a tight psychological thriller and instead it was a daft melodrama full of overly ponderous dialogue and pointed direction. Everyone has something to hide, there are layers of secrets and deception with each character and it just becomes increasingly ridiculous. From the get go, the fact that this woman is operating on the president and doesn’t have the most basic of security presence around her is idiotic. She hasn’t even had any kind of vetting done, which would have brought most of her family’s secrets to light. She’s an absolute gift to a blackmailer. It’s stupid.

But maybe that’s what they were going for, maybe they weren’t looking to be particularly subtle. I would be ok with that if it had been full on explosions and daftness like 24 or something. But you’re going to be horribly bored if that was what you were looking for. Nothing happens. Oh, there’s a foiled bank robbery at the start which is over in about 30 seconds and a dog gets drugged. That’s all. a dog. And (spoiler!) he gets better.

I also failed to connect with any of the characters. There’s something about Toni Collette that I’ve just never really got on with, her characters always feel distant and cold, even when they’re really not. Dylon McDermott is probably the most interesting character, but even he is saddled with the ‘mysterious’ role which just means that his character is completely up in the air, utterly different to whoever he’s opposite at the time.

I think it’s probably a personal taste thing, I wouldn’t be as critical of people who did like as I would of some terrible shows out there, but I was disappointed in this. Half way through I suddenly started thinking about how great it would have been if the show was made in Denmark.

The Upfronts – CBS

cbsCBS, home of the procedural. Looking at the list of renewals, although its portfolio is aging, they are still some of the most popular shows on television. The bad news is with so many slots taken, that doesn’t leave much space for new things.

What’s out
csinyThe biggest cancellation for CBS was surely CSI: NY, which having held off the executioner for the last couple of its nine year run, finally succumbed. Rules of Engagement is a sitcom I know nothing about but has apparently had seven seasons! Freshman series struggled to deliver the high ratings CBS demands, comedies Made in Jersey and Partners didn’t make much impact and while I quite enjoyed Vegas, even I would admit it wasn’t as good as it should have been or needed to be. Golden Boy meanwhile is a police drama that seems to have come and gone with almost no comment from anyone.

What’s returning
The Big Bang TheorySome of the most popular shows on American television are on CBS and their pick up is no surprise. CSI and NCIS may be heading into their fourteenth and eleventh seasons respectively but show little signs of stopping. NCIS: Los Angeles goes into season 5, although its own spin off series (NCIS: Red) was surprisingly absent from the pick-up list. The schedule is packed out with the rest of the procedurals – Blue Bloods, The Mentalist, Hawaii Five-0, Person of Interest and Criminal Minds, going into season 9 after last minute contract negotiations as the female co-stars sought pay equity. Despite relatively poor ratings, it’s also no surprise that The Good Wife, easily the most critically acclaimed network drama is also picked up. CBS also somehow manages to have some of the best performing comedies – The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and How I Met Your Mother return, although it will only be Two Men without the Half and it will be the final season for Mother. Mike and Molly and 2 Broke Girls round it out. The only new show with a pick up is Elementary.

What’s New
The Crazy Ones – Father/daughter ad agency. That’s as much of the blurb as you need to know because the pairing of Robin Williams (Mork!) and Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy!) is what either sells this show to you in a heartbeat, or has you changing channel. I thought it looked one of the most promising comedies so far.

Friends with Better Lives – Six friends are each jealous of their friends lives, be they young parents dreaming of less responsibility, professionally successful but lonely or recently divorced but pining for the ex. Sounds like Friends with more bitterness. Arrives midseason.

Hostages – the night before she’s due to operate on the president Ellen Sanders’ (Toni Collete, United States of Tara) family is taken hostage by a rogue FBI agent (Dylan McDermott, American Horror Story). If she doesn’t kill the president, her family will die. The performances all fell a bit flat for more and although it sounds like a great concept for a film, I’m not sure how it would be drawn out to a series.

Intelligence – Gabriel (Josh Holloway, Lost) is the guinea pig and centre piece for a government agency, led by Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger, CSI). He has some kind of magic technology implanted into his brain which basically gives him access to all the information ever which he presumably uses to fight crime. This looks like it could be fun, with some cool special effects and a solid cast, it’s like NCIS meets the future. Starts midseason.

The Millers – Nathan Miller (Will Arnett) is recently divorced, his dad (Beau Bridges) sees how happy he is and ditches his wife of 43 years (Margo Martindale, Justified). Mum ends up living with son, Dad with daughter. There was not a single thing in this trailer that made me smile and more than one thing that made me want to crawl under a rock.

Mom – three generations of dysfunctional women try to connect with each other. Remember yesterday’s reaction to Bradley Whitford in Trophy Wife, well there was an identical one to Allison Janney in this. Seriously, did their mortgage plans all fall through at the same time or something?! Making a comedy about recovering drug addicts and how they destroyed their family’s lives they’ve had on their families is a brave choice, and one that they should have run away screaming from.

Reckless – “a sultry legal drama set in Charleston, South Carolina, where a gorgeous Yankee litigator (Anna Wood) and a charming Southern attorney (Cam Gigendet) must hide their intense mutual attraction as a police sex scandal threatens to tear the city apart.” Genuinely that’s what the blurb in the press release says. It really does. Starts midseason.

We are Men – Chris Smith, Kal Penn (House), Terry Shalhoub (Monk) and Jerry O’Connell (Sliders) all live in the same apartment complex and are single following various divorces and dumpings. They share a common bond of seeking women and being idiots. It’s a terrible title and it accurately represents the show.

Links: CBS insist on doing those weird behind the scenes trailers which infuriate me and, particularly with the comedies, seem to be trying to show us how much fun the cast is, rather than how fun the show is. The press release and schedule summary are at the Futon Critic.