TCA press tour: CBS aims to break mold with ‘Hostages’

CBS is keen on holding folks captive. This summer, townspeople were prisoners “Under the Dome.” Come fall, an ordinary family is held by force in “Hostages.”

The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced thriller stars Toni Collette as Dr. Ellen Sanders, a top Washington, D.C., surgeon who is due to cut open the president of the United States. But before scrubbing in, she and her family are taken hostage by a rogue FBI agent (Dylan McDermott) and his posse. Now the doc must decide: help in killing the president during the surgery, or say adios to her brood.

It’s yet another series aiming to re-create the cable formula on broadcast.

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“It’s something a little different and outside the model of what we normally see on network TV,” said Jeffrey Nachmanoff, one of the show’s executive producers, during the show’s panel Monday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour at the Beverly Hilton.

The format has the network veering more outside its proven procedural formula. The compact season, its stars and producers said, alleviates the fatigue typically associated with the 22-plus episode standard seasons of other shows.

“It lets you shape an arc without having to stretch out and tap dance,” said Nachmanoff, who is also a head writer on the series. “A lot of characters we respond to on cable [are] ordinary people in extraordinary situations,” citing “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White and “Weeds’” Nancy Botwin. “People in extremis who discover something different about themselves because of the situation they’re thrust into.”

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The 15-episode cat-and-mouse thriller takes place over the span of two weeks--and, much like recently renewed “Under the Dome,” is billed as an open-ended series, meaning additional seasons are a possibility if successful.

Producers are quick to assure folks that viewers won’t feel claustrophobic by the premise or title.

“We’ll see pretty quickly in Episode 2 that the family is back to their normal lives,” said Rick Eid, another executive producer. “This is not a family trapped in their living room for an entire season. We have a lot of ideas where Season 2 can go.” Situations that will include one central character getting shot, another character getting killed, the producers teased.

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“Doing a traditional broadcast series is really a marathon,” McDermott said. “Stories get repetitive. I think in this show, what’s great about it is it’s streamlined. You’re getting the best of the best. There’s no fat in these episodes.”

But perhaps the biggest suspense surrounding the series is the Dermot/McDermott riddle (star Dylan McDermott often gets confused for fellow actor Dermot Mulroney, who is also starring in a hostage-like series, “Crisis,” on NBC this fall).

“We always discuss what we’re going to do,” McDermott joked. “We’re trying to add to the confusion as much as we can, so this just perpetuates that a little bit more.”



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