Standoff: Pilot (series premiere)
(S01E01) I'm one of those people that truly believes that any TV show or movie premise could be great. Because it's not the premise of a show that's most important. Really, what does the premise of a show have to do with anything? A "great" premise could have horrible writing, acting, direction, while a show that seems to have a "typical" or "boring" premise can be great if it has good writing, acting, and direction. Seinfeld was a show about "nothing" but it was the writing and the cast that made that show great. Heck, what was the movie My Dinner With Andre but two guys eating dinner and talking for two hours?
So it's not the premise of Standoff (hostage negotiators are also lovers!) that is disappointing, it's that there's nothing really special about it. Not yet anyway. But it's a show that has promise, and here's why.
Ron Livingston stars as CNU (Crisis Negotiation Unit) negotiator Matt Flannery and Rosemarie DeWitt is his partner Emily Lehman. They're experts in hostage negotiation, but they're also seeing each other secretly. That could pose a problem if the secret gets out...which is does a few minutes into the latest hostage situation (a dad holding his two kids hostage in a car at an intersection). To get the dad talking, Matt blurts out on the phone that he's sleeping with his partner! That shocks their boss Cheryl Carrera (Gina Torres) and other members of the CNU, including hotheaded sniper Frank (Michael Cudlitz), who doesn't like Matt that much.
Oh, and Emily isn't too thrilled either.
This part was actually a pleasant surprise, the fact that the plot wasn't a "will they or won't they have sex" thing we've seen in every romantic comedy ever made. And it's not a secret that they're having an affair, so it's all out in the open. This will either be a disaster for the future of the show or it's a masterstroke.
I'm not sure if the mix of the romantic, Moonlighting-esque comedy with the serious hostage and kidnapping drama will catch on with viewers, but I was completely wrong about Bones. I thought that show would last less than 10 episodes, and here it is starting a second season. This show makes for a good companion to Bones, actually. Very similar in many ways, though I think right now Bones handles that mix better.
The main plot of this episode, after that dad holding his two kids hostage, is a young man who holds a diner hostage. Is he a terrorist, or is there something more mundane about his motives? An OK twist to this plot (I found the cellphone that plays the M*A*S*H theme oddly humorous), though I'm wondering if, after a few episodes, these "surprise" revelations figured out by Emily and/or Matt will become really predictable.
Of course, Matt and Emily figure out what's really going on, and devise a way to save everyone's life. Matt also finds a way to tell off the pushy, ambitious mom of the hostage taker.
Bottom line? The good: The cast is likable, and if the mix of romance and drama/action works, it could be a kick. The bad? The script has a few cringeworthy moments, some of the characters are paper thin (do we really need another hard as nails commander who is aggravated by his "loose cannon" team and has to give them warnings?) and the way the plots are handled could become routine. But it certainly has promise, and I'm going to keep watching this.
(By the way, check out this online journal from Chip Mazzara, a young writer for the show. He calls himself "The Disgruntled Blogger.")
"I'm wondering if the last time we had sex was the last time we had sex." - Matt, to Emily.
"It makes for slightly better footage than a crater. Better TiVo value." - Matt, about what the hostage taker plans to do.