Take Me To The Pilots ’13: CBS’ ‘Hostages’

[In case you’ve Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you’ve read me, you’ve read my reviews and you know this isn’t what they look like.]

Show:“Hostages” (CBS)
Airs:Mondays at 10 p.m.
The Pitch:It’s “The Mob Doctor” with slightly higher stakes!
Quick Response: Leave aside the higher production values and more prestigious cast that come with the CBS pedigree and all “Hostages” is is a glorified version of FOX’s “The Mob Doctor,” only with a better title and uppity claims of being a “limited” series or somesuch. [“Mob Doctor” was pretty limited itself. FOX should have advertised it that way.] Doctor with high-profile patient is squeezed to violate that whole “Do no harm” ethos [Minus the NBC split-personality thing], only to respond with stubbornness and morality or whatever. The presumption is that you’ll actually care about the doctor’s dilemma in this case both because she’s played by Toni Collette and because her patient is the President of the United States rather than some mob stooge. It’s a big assumption, because other than casting Tony winner (and Nate Archibald grandfather) James Naughton, no effort was put into making the President even a semi-character, so it merely theoretically seems like it’d be better not to kill him. In any case, every second of the “Hostages” pilot is familiar and the execution is proficient, but perfunctory. Writer-director Jeffrey Nachmanoff keeps the pilot chugging along, but you can almost sense him checking off boxes as he goes along: Opening action! Hostage situation! Twist! Demand! Daughter’s got a secret! Son’s got a secret! Husband’s got a secret! Twist! Elongating cliffhanger! There’s no room for anything to breathe and the only reason you’re going to care about anything is, “Because you’re inherently supposed to.” Yes, it’s bad to take a family hostage and it’s bad to plot to kill the president, but nothing in the “Hostages” pilot makes me invest in the characters or situations beyond that. I vaguely care about the doctor because Toni Collette makes me vaguely care about things. I’m vaguely interested in what Dylan McDermott is doing, because Dylan McDermott makes me vaguely interested in things (even “Dark Blue” for a couple minutes). I don’t care about either of the teenage characters, because “Hostages” has doubled down on its obligatorily annoying teenage characters whose whining may or may not be designed to make you sympathize with the hostage takers. And the end of the episode just screams “24”-style wheel-spinning. CBS is treating this like some sort of programming revolution, but I watched “The Nine” and “Vanished” and “Kidnapped.” It’s easy to do the pilot for this kind of thing. It’s harder to make it a network series. And I’d say this is worse than the pilot for “The Nine” and “Kidnapped” at the very least. [And that’s not getting into comparable new shows like “Crisis” and “The Blacklist” yet.]
Desire To Watch Again: I have enough curiosity for one more episode. Either it breaks out of its programmatic rut and gives me something to care about or I check out. Fast I’m content to watch a Toni Collette/Dylan McDermott thriller. But I’m also content to skip it entirely, especially since it’s “limited.” Nothing in the destination promised by the pilot is mandatory enough for me to lock in for three episodes yet, much less 13 or 15.

Take Me To The Pilots ’13: FOX’s ‘Sleepy Hollow’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: ABC’s ‘Trophy Wife’ 
Take Me To The Pilots ’13: NBC’s ‘The Michael J. Fox Show’ 
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries