Pilots and Premieres: “Crisis” – Series Premiere

Who:  “Crisis,” currently airs on network TV, specifically on NBC, Sundays at 10:00 PM.

What: “Crisis,” a hostage drama wherein the children of the most powerful and influential leaders of the United States and even the world, including the president’s son, are kidnapped, and each of the powerful parents are approached by the kidnappers for different reasons.  The show follows the kidnapped children, the FBI and Secret Service as they conduct the manhunt, and the mastermind of the kidnapping.

When: The series premiered on NBC, Sunday, March 16, 2014, at 10:00 PM.

Where: The action is primarily set in Washington DC and surrounds.

Why: Honestly, as I watch this program, I’m not quite sure what enticed me to it other than Gillian Anderson.  The erstwhile Scully features prominently in this show, though other projects she has done have not interested me.  Otherwise, this program doesn’t fit my usual cup of tea.  Oh well – I’m expanding my horizons, perhaps.

How – as in How Was It?

The pilot/premiere rating scale:

***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING.  HOLY SMOKES!

**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing.  I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.

*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens.  There are things I like, and things I don’t.  We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.

** – I will give it three episodes.  Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together.  No matter how unlikely.

* – Pass on this one, guys.  It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.

Crisis = **1/2

SYNOPSIS

Washington’s elite teenagers attend a fictional private school.  While on a field trip, their bus is hijacked; one of the Secret Service agents inexplicably shoots his partner, Agent Finley (Lance Gross); and the children are taken, blindfolded, to a secure location.  As it turns out, one of the trip chaperons, Francis Gibson (Dermot Mulroney), poorer student Beth Ann’s father and seemingly an unassuming spineless type, is masterminding  the whole affair for unknown reasons and is taking it in turn to contact each of the parents, including Amber’s mom Meg (Anderson), the CEO of a powerful multi-million dollar corporation, to force them to do extreme things in the hopes of seeing their children again. Fortunately, Meg’s sister, Agent Susie Dunn (Rachael Taylor), is an FBI agent and also Amber’s real mother, and she has been assigned to meet with her estranged sister and the other parents to solve the crisis, before the kidnappers cause harm to any of the children, including the president’s son.

THOUGHTS

Crisis plays with an interesting idea: a high stakes ransom game, where there are multiple rich and powerful parties in a desperate position to use their influence to take extreme measures and to force unusually dangerous things to happen.  Unfortunately, the ensemble of performers here are a mixed bag of competent to not so much, the result of which undermines the obvious tension to which the program aims.

The adult actors, for the most part, do a decent job, though Mulroney’s Gibson swims in dangerous waters, fluctuating from over the top mustache twirler to level headed conniver.  Ms. Anderson certainly does her level best under the circumstances, though it is ironic that she is playing the sister of an FBI agent after 9 years playing an agent herself on the X-Files.  Yet, there is much left to be desired, and this blogger believes the script writers and the episode directors are not helping the performers in any way, shape, or form.  The pacing feels forced, an artificial rapidity in order to trump up dramatic tension in an inorganic way, and the dialogue is clipped and, sometimes, cringe worthy, particularly in the hands of the younger actors.  The teen members of the cast all appear to be acting as if they are in a school play; they seem even less natural than a school full of rich and powerful and probably snooty kids might.

In the end, there is something hollow about this crisis, something artificial that renders it mildly interesting but not full of the obviously intended suspense.  The biggest question is why Mulroney’s character has gone to such extreme lengths to assuage his obvious frustrations and shortcomings; the second episode hints at a larger conspiracy, but in so many ways, this program lacks focus, veering off into side threads that are meant to be bread crumbs to the larger mystery and, yet, distract from the urgency viewers are seemingly supposed to feel.  Also, so far, none of these characters are sympathetic, including the rich and powerful Meg, the by-the-book Susie, or the poor Beth Ann, whose father is the cause of her trouble unbeknownst to her.  Only Marcus and his quest, to redeem himself after his disastrous first day of Secret Service detail led to the loss of the president’s son, are remotely interesting, but even his stubborn earnestness wears thin after a time as does Agent Dunn’s constant suspicion of him and his abilities.

Crisis is not doing well in the ratings, and this viewer would venture to suggest that its movie-of-the-week quality is not helping the program to attract viewers.  As it is, my 2.5 star rating earns a four episode trial. I can see myself getting bored with this show, but, for now, this viewer will watch to see where this crisis goes, though longevity beyond one season seems like a long shot on so many fronts, including with the sustainability of the primary plot line.

RECOMMENDATION

Crisis is recommended to anyone who enjoys hostage dramas, but it’s not the best of those.  In fact, I find myself hard pressed to recommend this show to anyone, really, unless s/he is a fan of Gillian Anderson.  She’s the most competent member of the cast, but the show itself is mediocre at best.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:

TVLine is calling renewal of this program “a long shot.”  Ratings measurement outlets note that the ratings are consistently low, losing to offerings on ABC and CBS, including Revenge in its new time slot.  Frankly, I don’t see this show surviving to a second season: I don’t see how the story has more than one season’s worth of episodes, and this viewer cannot fathom that it will gain viewers at this late stage (seven episodes have aired; I’ve watched two).  This is another concept that might have worked better as a film, with a smaller time frame to heighten the intensity – and as long as better actors were cast in the younger roles.

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