Dear readers, before we get to the day’s business at hand, allow me a few moments to explain a change in the format of this blog. As many of you know, I am quite privileged to share some airtime on WKKX (AM 1600) radio each week with John Blackmore, Howard Monroe, and Steve Novotney. In the beginning, these discussions focused primarily on films, but more recently we have been including television shows as well. Thus when Steve suggested in one of our weekly conversations that I might want to think about throwing in some reviews of television shows to add variety to the blog and perhaps appeal to a wider audience, I really liked the idea.
In the coming weeks then, I will be reviewing some of the most popular television shows in addition to current films. Actually a lot of the shows on television are superior to many of the less-than-mediocre films Hollywood has been churning out lately, and I look forward to discussing these with you. As I proceed with this new direction, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Now let’s get to it.
Among the most highly touted new shows of the fall TV season is “Hostages,” and although I have read that its ratings are already slipping after just five episodes, I think the program is exciting, and riveting entertainment. The story is set in Washington, D.C., where Dr. Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) has built up her reputation to the point where she is recognized as one of the finest surgeons in the country. She is so good in fact, that the president of the United States has chosen her to perform his imminent surgery.
Naturally Ellen is thrilled with the honor and trust bestowed upon her by the most powerful man in the world, and she is eager to share the news with her husband, Brian (Tate Donovan), and their two teenaged children, Jake (Mateus Ward) and Morgan (Quinn Shephard). But her elation is ephemeral, and her happiness turns to horror when four people wearing ski masks invade her home.
Led by Duncan Carlisle (Dylan McDermott), the unwanted guests waste no time in explaining their invasion of the Sanders’ house. Carlisle is a former FBI agent who has turned rogue, and he calmly tells Ellen, “Tomorrow you’re going to operate on the president. He will die during the surgery. You’re going to kill the president of the United States, Ellen.” How’s that for a dilemma?
“Hostages” successfully combines the elements of a taut medical drama with those of a shocking political conspiracy, and Collette is absolutely superb in the role of the beleaguered doctor facing a lose-lose situation. She conveys Ellen’s agonizing emotional turmoil beautifully, and in a recent interview with The Huffington Post, she explained what appealed to her about the show and spoke about her initial reaction to the script for the pilot.
“I think it’s the brilliant writing. I just really loved the world. I loved that I didn’t know what was happening, although I thought I did. I found it really exciting to read. It really was a page-turner. I couldn’t put it down. My agents are very smart — they didn’t tell me what it was about at all. If I was a part of the audience, I would love to actually not know anything and just watch it because it’s like, ‘WHAT!’ It’s just so intense and surprising.”
McDermott also is outstanding as Carlisle, and one of the big mysteries in the show is his motivation for his actions. Early in the series we see him in action as top-notch FBI agent, but we have no idea what made him turn into the potential killer he is because he also has a family about which I will reveal no more.
In addition to the riveting main plot, “Hostages” contains a number of subplots dealing with Ellen’s husband and two children. They all have major problems in their lives that intertwine with the show’s central situation.
Another subplot revolves around Carlisle and his family. As I mentioned earlier, one of the major puzzles here is his reason for wanting the president dead. In an interview with The Huffington Post, McDermott mentioned this.
“He’s not just a bad guy doing bad things. There’s actually a very good reason he’s doing what he’s doing, and it will be revealed.”
Not only is “Hostages” a nail-biting thriller, but it’s also a fascinating character study. Although Carlisle is the bad guy, we cannot help feeling sorry for him because of the other things going on in his life, and this heightens our curiosity about him. And Carlisle has really underestimated Ellen because aside from being a brilliant doctor, she also is one tough lady, and what she does in an attempt to save her family takes real courage.
The 15-episode show, which gets the final score of a solid 10, spans a time period of two weeks, and only five episodes have aired so that you can easily catch up by watching previous episodes either online or on demand. “Hostages” airs Mondays on CBS at 10 p.m., and be forewarned that once you watch an episode, you will become a hostage of the show every week.
NEW SHOW ALERT: “DRACULA” SERIES MAKES ITS DEBUT ON FRIDAY, OCT. 25, AT 10 P.M. ON NBC