What Lisa Watched Last Night #90: Hostages Episode 1 “Pilot”

Last night, after I got back from dance class, I watched the first episode of the new CBS series, Hostages.


Why Was I Watching It?

I spent the last three months watching and reviewing Big Brother for the Big Brother Blog.  During every episode of Big Brother, CBS would show at least one commercial for Hostages.  It was obvious that CBS was obsessed with the idea of making Hostages into the show that the entire nation would be watching and debating, a bit like a network TV version of Homeland or Breaking Bad.

The commercials, for the most part, all featured Dylan McDermott looking grim while Toni Collette frowned and, occasionally, some old white guy would tell Collette that she was the only doctor he trusted to operate on her and she would reply, “Thank you, Mr. President.”  In short, the commercials made the show look terrible.  The only question was whether or not Hostages would be intentionally bad or unintentionally awful.

Last night, I got my answer.

What Was It About?

President Paul Kinkaid (James Naughton) needs to have surgery and, of course, only one doctor can perform the operation.  That doctor is Ellen Saunders (Toni Collette).  Ellen is so concerned with the President’s health that she doesn’t realize that her husband (Tate Donovan) is having an affair, her son is selling weed, and her daughter is pregnant.

Meanwhile, Duncan Carlisle (Dylan McDermott) is a FBI hostage negotiator.  When we first see him, he’s gunning down a bank robber and smirking while he does it.  It turns out that Duncan needs money to take care of his sick wife.

Eventually, Duncan and a team of other black-clad operatives end up inside the Saunders home where they take the entire family hostage.  They tell Ellen that, if she wants to save her family, she must assassinate the President…

What Worked?

The show turned out to be just as bad as I was expecting it to be!  Whenever I saw the commercials for Hostages, I would think to myself: “That looks like it’s going to be a really boring, tedious series.”  Judging from the pilot, I was right.  It always feels good to be right.

That said, I do have to say that, alone among the cast, Dylan McDermott seems to understand that he’s playing a ludicrous character in a silly show and — much as he did in American Horror Story — he responds by giving an appropriately melodramatic performance.  While the rest of the cast appeared to be convinced that they were appearing in the next Homeland, McDermott seemed to be enjoying a joke that only he and the viewing audience could understand.

What Did Not Work?

If there’s even been a show that would obviously benefit from an over-the-top, melodramatic approach, it would be Hostages.  So, why did the pilot appear to be taking itself so damn seriously?  As I watched last night’s episode, I found myself wondering if anyone involved in the show (other than Dylan McDermott) understood just how silly this all was.  Instead, the show moved at an almost somber pace and all of the actors (again, with the notable exception of McDermott) delivered their lines with the type of gravity that one would usually associate with Jeff Daniels delivering one of Aaron Sorkin’s pompous polemical speeches on The Newsroom.  Considering all of the melodramatic potential of this show’s plot, Hostages really has no excuse to be as boring and predictable as it was last night.

Toni Collette is one of my favorite actresses so it was kind of sad to see her give such a boring performance in the lead role of Ellen Saunders.  Then again, as written, Ellen Saunders is a pretty boring character.  It’s as if the show’s producers and writers were so proud of creating a professional woman that they didn’t notice that they neglected to give her a personality.

Finally, the President is just some boring old white guy.  What’s up with that?

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I was tempted to say that, like the family in Hostages, I would totally freak out if a bunch of people appeared in the house, pointed their guns at me, and announced that they were holding me hostage.  However, it then occurred to me that nobody in Hostages really freaked out about being held hostage.  They were certainly annoyed and occasionally, they even attempted to be defiant.  But they never really freaked out.

Nor could I really see much of myself in the character of Ellen Saunders or her daughter.  Since neither one of them came across as being anything more than a two-dimensional plot device, neither one of them was capable of inspiring any “just like me” moments.

I tried to relate to Sandrine Holt, who plays Maria, the only female hostage taker.  However, Maria spent most of the episode carrying around a gun and, while I’m totally into the 2nd amendment, I’m not really into guns.

Then I remembered that, early on in the episode, Ellen’s daughter talks to her best friend.  The friend takes one look at her and says, “Your eyes are puffy,” which is the exact same thing that I would say if one of my friends had puffy eyes.

So, that was my “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moment.

Lessons Learned

Sometimes, commercials don’t lie.

My 2012 Emmy Nominations

So, for the past few days, I’ve been happily hopping around my section of the Shattered Lens Bunker and do you know why? 

Because it’s awards season, that’s why!  With the conclusion of the 2011-2012 TV season, Emmy ballots have been mailed and votes are being cast and, come July, we’ll know which shows and performers have been nominated for the 2012 Emmys. 

Before that happens, however, I would like to play a little game called “What if Lisa Was Solely Responsible For Picking the Nominees.”  Here’s how it works — I looked over and studied the complete list of the shows and performances that have been submitted this year for Emmy consideration.  And then, from that list, I picked my personal nominees.

(A complete list of every show and performer that’s been submitted for Emmy consideration can be found here.)

Below are my personal nominations in the major Emmy categories.  Again, note that these are not necessarily the shows and performers that I believe will be nominated.  Instead, these are the shows and performers that I would nominate if I was solely responsible for picking the nominees.

A complete list of my nominations in every single Emmy category can be found here.  (And yes, there’s a lot of Lifetime on the list.  There’s also a lot of Community.)

Best Comedy Series

Bored to Death (HBO)

Community (NBC)

Girls (HBO)

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (FX)

Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Raising Hope (Fox)

Veep (HBO)

Best Drama Series

Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Breaking Bad (AMC)

The Client List (Lifetime)

Downton Abbey (PBS)

Game of Thrones (HBO)

Homeland (Showtime)

Pan Am (ABC)

Ringer (The CW)

True Blood (HBO)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Outstanding Miniseries or Movie

Blue-Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Cyberbully (ABC Family)

Drew Peterson: Untouchable (Lifetime)

Five (Lifetime)

Girl Fight (Lifetime)

Hatfields & McCoys (History Channel)

The Hour (BBC America)

Of Two Minds (Lifetime)

Outstanding Variety Series

Conan (TBS)

Fashion Police (E)

Key and Peele (Comedy Central)

The Soup (E)

Tosh .O (Comedy Central)

Outstanding Variety Special

Betty White’s 90th Birthday Party (NBC)

Celtic Women: Believe (PBS)

The Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen (Comedy Central)

TV Land Awards (TV Land)

Wendy Liebman: Taller on TV (Showtime)

Outstanding Nonfiction Special

Bobby Fischer Against The World (HBO)

Catholicism: Amazed and Afraid (PBS)

Crime After Crime (OWN)

God Is The Bigger Elvis (HBO)

6 Days To Air: The Making of South Park (Comedy Central)

Outstanding Nonfiction Series

America in Primetime (PBS)

American Masters (PBS)

America’s Most Wanted (Lifetime)

Beyond Scared Straight (A&E)

Inside Story (Biography)

Outstanding Reality Program

Antiques Roadshow (PBS)

Dance Moms (Lifetime)

Kitchen Nightmares (Fox)

Scouted (E)

Storage Wars (A&E)

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program

The Amazing Race (CBS)

The Bachelor (ABC)

Big Brother (CBS)

The Celebrity Apprentice (NBC)

Hell’s Kitchen (Fox)

Project Runway (Lifetime)

So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)

Survivor (CBS)

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series

Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)

Johnny Galecki in The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

Danny McBride in Eastbound and Down (HBO)

Joel McHale in Community (NBC)

Lucas Neff in Raising Hope (Fox)

Jason Schwartzman in Bored To Death (HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama

Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (AMC)

Jeffrey Donavon in Burn Notice (USA)

Damian Lewis in Homeland (Showtime)

Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead (AMC)

Timothy Olyphant in Justified (FX)

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries or Movie

Idris Elba in Luther (BBC America)

Rob Lowe in Drew Peterson: Untouchable (Lifetime)

Steven Weber in Duke (Hallmark Movie Channel)

Dominic West in The Hour (BBC America)

Ben Whishaw in The Hour (BBC America)

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy

Zooey Deschanel in New Girl (Fox)

Lena Dunham in Girls (HBO)

Tina Fey in 30 Rock  (NBC)

Julia Louis Dreyfuss in Veep (HBO)

Mary-Louis Parker in Weeds (Showtime)

Martha Plimpton in Raising Hope (Fox)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama

Claire Danes in Homeland (Showtime)

Sarah Michelle Gellar in Ringer (The CW)

Jennifer Love Hewitt in The Client List (Lifetime)

Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife (CBS)

Elizabeth McGovern in Downton Abbey (PBS)

Anna Paquin in True Blood (HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries or Movie

Kristin Davis in Of Two Minds (Lifetime)

Anne Heche in Girl Fight (Lifetime)

Rose McGowan in The Pastor’s Wife (Lifetime)

Emily Osment in Cyberbully (ABC Family)

Sara Paxton in Blue Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

Charlie Day in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)

Danny DeVito in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (FX)

Donald Glover in Community (NBC)

Nick Offerman in Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Danny Pudi in Community (NBC)

Matt Walsh in Veep (HBO)

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama

Bruce Campbell in Burn Notice (USA)

Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones (HBO)

Giancarlo Espositto in Breaking Bad (AMC)

Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Michael Shannon in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Alexander Skarsgard in True Blood (HBO)

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Miniseries or Movie

Powers Boothe in Hatfields and McCoys (History Channel)

Justin Bruening in Blue-Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Mark-Paul Gosselaar in Hide (TNT)

Sir Roger Moore in A Princess For Christmas (Hallmark Movie Channel)

Tony Shalhoub in Five (Lifetime)

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy

Alison Brie in Community (NBC)

Kristen Chenoweth in GCB (ABC)

Anna Chlumsky in Veep (HBO)

Gillian Jacobs in Community (NBC)

Cloris Leachman in Raising Hope (Fox)

Aubrey Plaza in Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in Drama

Christine Baranski in The Good Wife (CBS)

Kristen Bauer Von Straten in True Blood (HBO)

Kelly MacDonald in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Christina Ricci in Pan Am (ABC)

Sophia Turner in Game of Thrones (HBO)

Deborah Ann Woll in True Blood (HBO)

Supporting Actress In A Miniseries or Movie

Tammy Blanchard in Of Two Minds (Lifetime)

Kaley Cuoco in Drew Peterson: Untouchable (Lifetime)

Lisa Edelstein in Blue-Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Jessica Lange in American Horror Story (FX)

Jena Malone in Hatfields and McCoy (History Channel)