Three years on since the cancellation of biting dramedy United States of Tara, Emmy Award-winning actress Toni Collette returns to the small screen with high-concept thriller Hostages. Adapted from the hit Israeli series of the same name, Collette plays Dr Ellen Sanders, a surgeon who is given a radical ultimatum: ensure her upcoming operation on the US president fails, or her family is killed.
High-concept television serials are notoriously difficult to pull off well. Audiences are either dragged through never-ending multiple season arcs, or the show is ultimately cancelled without a coherent resolution. Not that this actually matters in the case of Hostages.
Shot in that moody hue typically associated with quality television and with sweeping, dramatic pans of Washington DC, Hostages tries so hard to aim for that quality prime-time TV aesthetic. Instead it finds itself round-kicked out of the window into kitschy soap opera land.
With a fifteen episode order from CBS, dramatic television is time consuming for audiences, and unlike cinema, star casts and pretty imagery can’t keep a show afloat without a strong, cleverly constructed plot. A shame then, that the show opts for the heavy-handed twist-a-minute approach when it should have built mystery slowly, methodically, hinting at the revelations to come – more akin to the new wave of Scandinavian drama.
To say its narrative is rather convoluted would be the biggest understatement of the spring television season. With bizarre sub-plot additions and unfulfilling episode pay-offs, Hostages would work better as a campy, conspiracy romp, if only it took itself a little less seriously.