TV Review: ‘Hostages’

Hostages Review CBS

CBS limited series walks delicate '24'-like tightrope, faces murky prognosis

Brimming with “24”-like intrigue, “Hostages” is one of those series where the pilot doesn’t tell you a whole lot, since the high-wire act is going to depend heavily on how many rabbits the producing team can keep pulling out of hats. Bearing an initial resemblance to “The Desperate Hours” (a story Hollywood has filmed three times), what’s described as a limited series features an especially strong lead in Toni Collette, the doctor caught in the center of the storm. There’s certainly a racing pulse in this Jerry Bruckheimer production, but the longer-term prognosis remains murky.

Collette is Dr. Ellen Sanders, a doctor who has been tapped to perform what’s supposed to be a fairly rudimentary surgical procedure on the President of the United States (James Naughton). Yet when a group of men invade her home — taking her husband (Tate Donovan) and kids hostage — she’s faced with a no-win choice: Participate in a conspiracy to ensure that the president dies on the operating table, or risk having her family harmed.

The gunmen are led by Duncan Carlisle (Dylan McDermott), who is introduced as a gun-slinging federal agent, and who quickly establishes he isn’t lying when he tells the Sanders clan that he and his accomplices “know everything” about them. Still, the question of just how high up this plot goes, and who might be involved, adds a dense layer of paranoia to Ellen’s plight.

Written by Alon Aranya and Jeffrey Nachmanoff, “Hostages” has a polished feel to it, and the limited-series approach certainly makes the prospect of committing to the show more palatable, inasmuch as it won’t be able to explain away its central predicament forever. (Then again, if the ratings are good, one suspects CBS will find a way to perpetuate the franchise, even if that means locking everyone up under a large glass dome.)

While the serialized nature of the premise is slightly outside CBS’ procedural-heavy wheelhouse, the network is banking on the show to pick up where “Hawaii Five-O” left off. And if enough people sample the prototype — no slam dunk given the competition — there’s a pretty good incentive to hang around at least a little longer, if only to get a firmer feel on where this might be heading, with family secrets and strained relationships clearly on the soapy menu to hold at least some viewers hostage.

TV Review: 'Hostages'

(Series; CBS, Mon. Sept. 23, 10 p.m.)


Filmed in New York by Jerry Bruckheimer Television in association with Warner Bros. Television.


Executive producers, Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman, Jeffrey Nachmanoff, Rick Eid, Omri Givon, Rotem Shamir; Chayim Sharir; director, Nachmanoff; writers, Alon Aranya, Nachmanoff; camera, James Whitaker; production designer, Laurence Bennett; editor, Billy Fox; casting, Beth, Bowling, Kim Miscia. 60 MIN.


Toni Collette, Dylan McDermott, Tate Donovan, Sandrine Holt, Rhys Coiro, Billy Brown, Quinn Shephard, Mateus Ward, James Naughton

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  1. Jay Pierson says:

    20 of my friends, all college professors came over and watched the second episode– 18 YES and 2 no. There are a few flaws– but getting the audience to say “Why didn’t they just do this or that” keeps the watchers involved. We want Toni C to get out of this conundrum and to surprise us in the end. Think about the girlfriend, the guy who is owed drug money– how they will play into the show. It is dark, dramatic and unsettling and you have to pay attention, but that is the beauty of it. It is not “How I met your parents” fluff or Mad Men– It is good, direct and intriguing TV. If this played at a movie theater, I think many people would stay to see the ultimate outcome.

  2. p frybergh says:

    Pilot I enjoyed , made sure I would watch week two.
    The basement seene picking which family member to kill was more then l cared to watch it reminds me of the assholes we deal with in the Middle East
    I guess I don’t like kids begging for there lives.
    I have watched all ganster movies and shows Enjoyed them all multiple times I am not squmish just don’t need to see kids begging
    Good luck to you and your show!

    • AgEmom says:

      @p frybergh – – – “The basement seene picking which family member to kill was more then l cared to watch it reminds me of the assholes we deal with in the Middle East” my exact thoughts! I will not be watching this show any longer.

  3. Yvonne says:

    Unlike most who have commented here, I happen to like Hostages and find it much more interesting than many of the other dramas currently offered on most channels. And I don’t consider myself to be a mental midget as Jim suggested. Good luck to this one!

  4. Jason W says:

    just finished the pilot…. and I am not impressed in the slightest… Just for clarity I really enjoy shows like Scandal..Hannibal..Homeland and Revenge but found this one bordering on the ridiculous – even with a room full of armed gunmen holding a family hostage there is zero tension or even the tiniest hint that the family is in immediate peril – the characters are ‘cut and pasted’ from every other federal government spook series ever invented (including token angry black guy… hot dangerous femme fatale… goofy “I care too much” bad guy… emotionally angst teenage daughter… selfish “not the family man I pretend to be” husband ..blah blah blah..) …

    My forecast for this series is the viewer is going to spend most of the time screaming “why the hell didn’t they just….(insert simple solution here)? or bemoaning how the family are so hellbent to hide their ‘terrible’ secrets from each other they are willing to condone the murder of POTUS…

    I’ll try to watch the second episode (on DVR definitely not making time to watch it live) but after the “twist” at the end of the pilot..I don’t hold out much hope

  5. Jim says:

    Hostages is a show 4 mental midgets. Besides all the obvious errors the show is so phoney it hurts. Now under the most stressful time in her life a doctor supposedly fools a lie detector. If it were that easy to fool they wouldn’t use them at all! Hostages is a show 4 ppl who dont like to think, much like the creators of the show…

  6. Sharon D says:

    I am not too crazy about the program Hostages. After 2 episodes I find it to be very cruel and I am dissatisfied with the story line. This week is the last time I will watch this program.

    • ylas says:

      I think it is the most ridiculous, badly written, laughable show I’ve seen in a while. Haven’t been able to watch an entire episode yet because it’s so bad, but my family and I get a good laugh for a few minutes. Tracking devices implanted in the family’s necks by the mom at the kitchen table? We were on the floor. The dad is so afraid of letting his wife know he’s having an affair in the midst of all this chaos? Just absurd. Why don’t these guys just hire a professional assassin. It would be easier.

    • Jane Riley says:

      I like it. Its smart and always shows a third alternative. About time there is something challenging to watch.

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