Can nine strangers held hostage in a bank for 52 hours provide the foundation for a drama capable of running for several years? That’s the intriguing question posed by “The Nine,” whose promising debut renders it a worthy contender to retain audience from another flashback-ing ABC drama with a “Party of Five” alum, “Lost.” Beyond the central gimmick that will tease out what happened inside the bank, show’s real strength lies in its deftly chosen cast, who share a life-changing experience that casts everything they knew before into doubt.
At its core, “The Nine” explores the notion of strangers being thrown together in a far more interesting, dramatic and less pretentious manner than ABC’s other new character-driven ensemble, “Six Degrees.”
Briskly directed by Alex Graves and created by the brother-sister team of Hank Steinberg (“Without a Trace”) and K.J. Steinberg (“Judging Amy”), the series quickly introduces various characters unlucky enough to drop by the bank at closing time just as two gunmen burst in. It’ll be “over in five minutes,” one robber says.
Well, not exactly. And more than two days later, life looks very different to Nick, the cop with the gambling problem (Tim Daly), who has a crush on a certain teller (Lourdes Benedicto); the loving couple (“Five’s” Scott Wolf, and Jessica Collins); the suicidal schlemiel (John Billingsley); the teller’s party-girl sister (Camille Guaty); assistant D.A. Kathryn Hale (Kim Raver), whose hair has been inexplicably shorn; and the bank manager (Chi McBride) and his daughter (Dana Davis).
When Nick punches out the hostage negotiator, you have a sense it wasn’t a picnic inside.
Still, to survive, “The Nine” will have to be more than just “Dog Day Afternoon” from the hostages’ perspective, building on the relationships set in motion and damaged by the initiating event. The challenge, structurally, will be finding a way to keep these characters interacting (logic that already seems a bit strained in the pilot) as the incident drifts into the distance.
Although we see the hostage standoff in only fleeting glimpses, the time as captives has obviously strained ties between the young lovers, while Raver and Daly exchange the kind of meaningful glances that suggest the prospect of something brewing between them.
Populated by a deft array of series veterans including Daly, Wolf, McBride and Raver, the opener does its job –maintaining a taut pace and stoking the desire for more info regarding what transpired and how it will play out going forward.
“It was a moment,” Wolf’s character says to his g.f. “Does it have to mean everything?”
Clearly, it meant quite a lot. And out of the starting gate, anyway, “The Nine” is almost what this show rates on a scale of one to 10, which is about as close to truth in advertising as a series prototype usually gets.