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Sunday, November 9, 2014

'Hostages' CS DVD: 'Brucked Up' Potentially Compelling Tale Based on Real-Life Home Invasions

Hostages: The Complete First Season
The Warner Archive 5-disc 15-episode DVD release of the 2013-14 CBS drama "Hostages" is a perfect choice for Archive because it shows the value of both a limited-run show and the awesome nature of the mini-series genre that contributes so much to the tasty goodness of '70s television.

High-profile real-life cases such as the Connecticut case in which night-time intruders hold a family captive (and horribly brutalize them) overnight until the mother can withdraw money from the bank the next morning that the Unreal TV reviewed HBO documentary "The Cheshire Murders" studies add credibility to the plot of "Hostages."

The following spoiler-laden network promo., courtesy of YouTube, for "Hostages" lays out a great deal of the lore and style of the series. 


The pilot episode of "Hostages," which Jerry Bruckheimer of the "CSI" franchise and numerous other films and series produces, quickly establishes the primary conflict in the series. Highly skilled F.B.I. negotiator Duncan Carlisle, played by Dylan McDermott of "American Horror Story" and many other series and films, and his crack team invade the home of surgeon Dr. Ellen Sanders the night before she is scheduled to operate on the president of the United States. Australian actress of the film "The Sixth Sense," the Showtime series "The United States of Tara," and several other films and series plays Ellen.

Team Duncan quickly hold Ellen, her husband Brian (played by Tate Donovan) and teen children Jake and Morgan at gunpoint. The non-negotiable stated terms are that the intruders will not harm or kill any member of the Sanders family if Ellen kills POTUS during the upcoming surgery.

The means that Bruckheimer and his team utilize to keep the action going for 14 more episodes include introducing a complication that requires postponing the operation for two weeks. Doing so necessitates that Duncan and his mercenaries keep the Sanders clan under surveillance and control for a fortnight.

The efforts of Ellen and her brood to escape and otherwise thwart the efforts of their captors are understandable and overall seem plausible. It is equally believable that the mission is a personal one for Duncan and that his allies include highly placed government officials.

As shown below, the entertaining and very escapist "Hostages" should have quit when it was ahead. Merely stopping at the elements described above and presenting the series as a roughly four-part mini-series would have made for a more compelling and better quality presentation.

"Hostage" also would have benefited from further developing the Stockholm Syndrome style bonds that form between the Sanders family and their captors. This element includes enforcer Kramer becoming a surrogate big brother, and Ellen not always siding with her family.

The main element that moves "Hostages" further away from the sublime end of the scale regarding quality television programs and closer to ridiculous territory is that this far-reaching conspiracy remains undiscovered despite Washington being a city in which there no secrets. On a related note, the up-close-and-personal access that at least two conspirators enjoy regarding our highest elected official make it seem that they could snuff said individual with far less risk and potential mayhem than their current plan.

On a related (pun intended) note, the number and degree of connections between the conspirators themselves and the Sanders family is incredibly absurd. Virtually all of the anarchists are related by birth or marriage to Duncan and/or either a fellow conspirator or affected individual, and Ellen is drawn in based on a long ago incident.

Having all those involved acting out of a highly personal motive is even more frustrating. It is incredibly unrealistic that none of the plotters are in it for the money.

The inter-related stakes include revenge, political power, the life of a loved one, and fear of exposure. This gets to the point that the viewer rolls his or her eyes when a member of the cabal reveals another reason for wanting to send the president to the big Oval Office in the sky.

Bruckheimer does nicely get things back on track for the series finale. This one is full of at action that is typically for this type of production, and loose ends are wrapped up. It is also nice to see the return of a very likable character from the pilot.

This range of quality in "Hostages" requires that viewers decide if the better elements outweigh the not-so-great aspects of the show and/or if the highly contrived pieces of the puzzle provide a desired form of entertainment.

At the very least, "Hostages" provides good escapist fun during periods that visiting relatives hold you captive in your own home during the holidays.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Hostages" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.