by Julian Spivey
CBS’ limited series “Hostages” ended its first, and due to lacking ratings likely only season, on Monday, Jan. 6 with a well-done finale that properly wrapped up the storyline, albeit slightly rushed over its final two episodes.
The series, which debuted in the fall, featured Golden Globe winners Toni Collette (“United States of Tara”) and Dylan McDermott (“The Practice”) as the leads. Collette played thoracic surgeon Dr. Ellen Sanders, tasked with operating on the President of the United State (played by James Naughton). McDermott played her captive FBI Special Agent Duncan Carlisle who along with three others (Billy Brown, Sandrine Holt and Rhys Coiro) held the Sanders family (Tate Donovan as father Brian and Quinn Shephard and Mateus Ward as kids Morgan and Jake) captive while they forced Dr. Sanders to kill the President during surgery.
“Hostages” was an interesting story all the way through, despite lacking in ratings – a rather rare feat for a CBS drama. However, the lagging ratings probably had to do with the fact that the series was a serial rather than CBS’ usual procedurals (the network’s fans seem rigid in their viewing habits) and it happened to be in one of the most competitive timeslots of the week at 9 p.m. on Mondays with ABC’s “Castle” always drawing a big rating and NBC’s freshman crime drama “The Blacklist” becoming the biggest hit of the fall season.
“Hostages,” however, could be the start of a unique trend on network television – series known as “limited series” which serve as a cohesive storyline whether it’s picked up for another season or not. In fact, with the Sanders’ storyline ending on Monday night if by some sheer miracle CBS does renew “Hostages” it would likely be with a completely different storyline and cast. You’re going to see this again on network television soon with Fox ordering multiple limited series like the return of “24” and the American version of the British hit “Broadchurch.” Because the stories are complete at season’s end, there really isn’t much worry if a show does wind up canceled. For this reason limited series could be very revolutionary indeed.
Despite never finding a big audience and many who did tune in at first finding it uninteresting or aspects of it annoying, I enjoyed most of the series. Some of the characters, like the children and Donovan’s character could become grating at times, but wouldn’t people in a traumatic experience like being held hostage be so in real life? The best part of this series was watching a couple of award winners and immensely talented actors in Collette and McDermott perform their roles with aplomb.
In the two-episode finale on Monday night the season long mystery of whether or not Dr. Sanders would go through with Duncan’s plan to kill the President was answered, although it was really kind of answered the week beforehand, in a surprise twist that might not have actually been the best for the series. Thus, the finale basically became a wrap up for the series; a how do we get to the ultimate result story.
Ultimately, I felt all of the storylines of “Hostages” wrapped up rather nicely, including Duncan’s despite what I’m sure many think. The main criticism I have with “Hostages” and its “limited run” was that at 15 episodes it may have actually been a few episodes too long. There were some episodes around the midpoint of the series that simply didn’t seem all that necessary.
“Hostages” was a solid series with a cast of talented people, but it really didn’t do a whole lot to show how the success of limited series will be on network television. We know “24” will be huge for Fox simply based on the popularity of the original series, but it’s to be seen how other limited series will fare. My guess is it’s going to depend on storyline and cast just like every other series. The fact that cancellation at season’s end doesn’t really matter if the story is wrapped up is a definitely a plus.