Tuesday, September 05, 2006

TV premiering tonight: Standoff

Here we go with the final one-word drama of the fall season from Fox, and this one is just as bland as the other two (Vanished, Justice). It's still a variation on the police procedural, focusing this time on hostage negotiators. As networks look closer into more niches for new variations on the procedural format, they're really narrowing their options narratively as to what kinds of stories they can tell. If you're just focusing on police officers, they can solve all kinds of cases and go all sorts of places, but as we've narrowed things from forensics investigators (the CSI franchise) to medical examiners (Crossing Jordan) to forensic anthropologists (Bones) and now to hostage negotiators, the characters at the center of the show become more and more marginal to the actual cases, and writers either have to abandon realism or risk becoming repetitive with the kinds of stories they can tell (not that these shows aren't repetitive already).

I can't say from just the pilot whether that's the case here, but it does seem like a very narrow premise. The producers try to expand on that by focusing on the banter-y sexual relationship between the two main characters, a pair of hostage negotiators. But their chemistry is off, and that premise has just as little room for development as does the procedural aspect. Already in the first episode they're told by their superior to end their relationship and end up sneaking around behind her back, and there are only so many "let's hope we don't get caught" scenarios to explore. Like the other Fox dramas, not terrible, and possibly a modest ratings success, but certainly far from anything worth seeking out. Fox, Tuesdays, 9 p.m.

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