TV Review: Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott in CBS’s taut, absurd ‘Hostages’

Hostages

CBS at 10 p.m.

Contrails from jet planes passing overhead intersect the National Museum of Art in Washington, Thursday morning, April 17, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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With its big red PREMISE ALERT flashing like crazy, CBS’s experimental new drama is this season’s most alluring act of derring-do; it’s also the show that’s hardest to swallow. Toni Collette stars as a top-notch surgeon who will perform a tricky, life-saving operation on the U.S. president. But the night before the surgery, a group of masked men (led by a rogue FBI agent played by Dylan McDermott) breaks into her house and takes her family hostage. If she doesn’t agree to secretly assassinate the president, it’s curtains for her family.

Throughout the pilot, you’ll wonder why this couldn’t all be handled in a mediocre two-hour action movie, mainly so that Collette will be free to keep searching for work more befitting her talent. Is there really a series here? Yes, the producers assure us: The relationship between the hostages and their captors will evolve as facts emerge and conspiracies take over. “Hostages” is based on an Israeli series (just like “Homeland” was, with the same frantic baseline addiction to the terror milieu), and it exudes the kind of taut confidence that CBS likes in its dramas. It’s handsomely made and yet patently ridiculous.

Grade: C+

— Hank Stuever

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