Ask Matt: Blacklist vs. Hostages, Mad Men's Split Season, Under the Dome
Toni Collette | Photo Credits: Jeff Neumann/CBS
Question: I think the last time I wrote to you was trying to decide whether to watch Lone Star or The Event in a time-slot match-up. You rightly pointed me in the direction of Lone Star in terms of quality, with clearly a star in the making in James Wolk, but sadly, it was a victim of the wrong network (Fox) for a show that probably was meant for cable, so it died an early death. Not that it matters in the long run, considering The Event also wilted. Now we have another Monday night time-slot match-up, between NBC's The Blacklist and CBS's Hostages. I generally try to only choose a handful of new shows each season, so which of the two do you recommend, if either? I'm leaning towards Hostages, because Toni Collette is a great actress and I still have fondness for Dylan McDermott from the early Practice days. Blacklist doesn't seem very original, however it seems to be getting more buzz around it. Not sure if that's because of the shallow NBC pool or if it's the better show? Help me and my DVR dilemma! #firstworldproblems — CK
Matt Roush: Ah, Lone Star. Took the world a while to catch up with James Wolk (who's having a good year), but we were there first, right? I'll be reviewing the new shows individually online as the fall rollout continues (expanding on my first-impression "takes" from the Fall Preview issue), but this is one of the most interesting face-offs because both are high-profile thrillers with "name" casts and they're among the most entertaining of a middling batch of new fall series. If I had to choose (luckily I don't, thanks to DVRs and On Demand, etc.), I'd probably go with Blacklist, which despite some obvious visual and thematic echoes of Silence of the Lambs (in the relationship between James Spader's master criminal and the rookie FBI profiler played by Megan Boone) has a fresher and more original mystery at its core, and isn't quite so loaded with melodramatic subplots as Hostages, in which everyone from the hostage-takers to the family of the president's embattled surgeon (Collette) harbors secrets, several of which erupt on the day of the crisis (Crisis, by the way, being the name of a midseason NBC drama that is basically Hostages with a different set-up, which only reinforces the derivative nature of the premise). I will say that both pilots made me want to keep watching, which is more than I can say for much of what's to come.
Want more TV news and reviews? Subscribe to TV Guide Magazine now!
Question: I've seen Gone (2011), with Molly Parker in a situation essentially identical to Toni Collette's in this new series Hostages. Why should I watch an expanded version drawn out over 15 weeks? I ask this after watching The Following on summer reruns, another 15-week series so beyond any normal experience that I could never understand how one guy, however charismatic, could amass such a large following of psychopathic killers. Along these same lines, I think Netflix has the right idea releasing all episodes at once, as I'm having a tough time carrying the mood of Broadchurch over from one week until the next. - Hal
Matt Roush: With shows like these, you either buy into the heightened premise or you don't. (The problem with The Following was more about execution, and making the feds look so stupid. The "following" themselves were often the most fascinating part of the show.) But with Hostages, comparing a densely sub-plotted (possibly over-plotted) miniseries-plus — or whatever these new limited-run series are being called — to a relatively generic woman-in-jeopardy Lifetime movie is a bit too easy, even if they do share DNA in the hardly original set-up of forcing a hero to commit a crime by holding loves ones hostage. There's a lot more story in Hostages, and whether it holds up remains to be seen. Regarding the all-at-once model: a nice luxury if you can afford it, and it works for some shows (Orange Is the New Black) better than others (Arrested Development, whose flaws were amplified by the format), but I'm still a believer in the anticipatory thrill of weekly serial TV. Would Breaking Bad be generating this sort of excitement if it had all been available at once? Doubtful.