Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pilot Review: Hostages

Hostages (CBS)
Premiered September 23 at 10pm

This well-advertised show is jumping on the patriotism bandwagon, using American flags in its promotional posters and putting the life of the president in the hands of someone being manipulated by a rogue FBI agent with some greater purpose in mind. Most interestingly, this is designed to be a fifteen-episode series so that its plot can be contained in a tighter and more concise run. I’m wondering how they’ll manage to stretch it to even that, considering it could have been over and done with, and I imagine there are going to be so many inconsistencies along the way. What is likeliest to be the case is a failure to follow through, namely that no-nonsense ringleader Duncan Carlisle, portrayed by Dylan McDermott, is going to make idle threats, promising to exact pain and vengeance on Dr. Ellen Sanders’ family but then letting her attempts to defy him go unpunished. Her first major tactic, to push off the president’s surgery, was somewhat clever because it still presents the opportunity for her to operate on him again in the future. Using her husband Tom, portrayed by Tate Donovan, who always seems to draw the short straw in terms of being abused, as a punching bag, does not seem like the most effective option. Not shooting the dog and keeping her daughter’s pregnancy a secret contradict Duncan’s modus operandi, and I’m concerned that such things will prevent the show from being engaging and believable. I do like the group of actors assembled to play Duncan’s team – Billy Brown from “The Following,” Rhys Coiro from “Entourage,” and Sandrine Holt from “House of Cards.” I’ve liked Toni Collette better in other roles. This show might prove interesting, but it’s going to have to deliver in its second installment to convince me to keep watching.

How will it work as a series? That’s the primary issue that this pilot brings up, which is that it took an entire episode to get to Ellen’s first move on the chess board, and the pacing might be far too slow to get the show to remain relevant for fifteen episodes. A curve ball or a focus on supporting characters could change that, but I’m not optimistic.
How long will it last? CBS might be compelled to air all fifteen episodes, but the pilot ratings are not much to write home about, and that would likely be it. CBS does not have a history of being forgiving to its underperforming shows, and I think trying out a contained run of a show is worth the risk, but the network is not going to want to commit to anything else.

Pilot grade: C

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