'Hostages' review: Why so serious, Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott?

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hostages-toni-collette-tate-donovan-cbs.jpgWelcome to another installment of "5 Questions and 500 Words," The Boob Tube Dude's approach this year to reviewing the sundry pilots that will be unspooling over the course of the next few weeks. Given the glut of shows, and the glut of reviews that will be published for these shows, I'm keeping things short and sweet. This is for your convenience and my sanity.

What's the premise?

Throw in every cliché you've seen in the past 15 years of thrillers (political intrigue, a "perfect" family that is anything but, a villain that is doing "bad things for the right reasons"), throw in Toni Collette to try to cover up the visible seams, and then dub it a "limited series" even though the plan is to run this for as many seasons as possible. "Hostages" throws the kitchen sink at the audience. The problem? It's as boring as one of those Time/Life books that teaches you how to install a kitchen sink.

Is there anyway to explain this via Britney Spears lyrics?

Absolutely, so glad you asked! Remember that line in "Womanizer" where Spears declares, "You think I'm crazy? I GOT your crazy!" Of course you do, because it's an awesome line to shout out at karaoke. FOX's "Sleepy Hollow" premiere owned its crazy. If Paul Bunyan and Casey Jones teamed up with Ichabod Crane by the end of that show's first season, you wouldn't blink an eye. "Hostages" isn't supernatural, but it's as equally farfetched as "Sleepy Hollow". But it treats everything with equally dour import, whether it's the life of the president of the United States or a subplot involving a Stupid Teen Boy doing Stupid Teen Boy Things.

Does Dylan McDermott mastur-cry at any point in the pilot?

Mercifully, no. But by the time CBS airs it, it's possible that Durmot Mulroney might in the final cut.

How on earth is this show sustainable even through a "limited run" of 15 episodes?

The pilot does what many pilots unfortunately do: It substitutes breadth for depth, hinting at back stories for at least a dozen characters. That gives the show plenty of room to fill in via flashback, which really means "the show will have to stall a lot for this to stretch out for even a truncated network season." It's possible "Hostages" will switch gears halfway through like "24" used to do, but the pilot establishes a "one day, one episode" approach that suggests a lot of filler will have to be employed in order to keep the lights on. It's also probably not a good sign that I'm much more curious about what motivates the hostage takers versus the hostages themselves.

Is this worth a four-month commitment?

This feels like a show that won't really be part of the cultural conversation, and could really benefit from binge-watching in doses along the way. The odds of being casually spoiled on this show seem fairly limited, unlike, say, "Lost" back in the day or "Breaking Bad" now. Binge-watching would remove a lot of the work of this show, since it's got some escapist DNA that's trying to extract itself from these portentous proceedings. There's room for a slick thriller in everyone's TV diet. Too bad a lot of "Hostages" seems stuck in the mud.
Photo/Video credit: CBS