Which overhyped Monday-night show should you watch? In Showdowns, Defamer's Beejoli Shah and Gawker's Rich Juzwiak tackle the tough issues: Which show each night this week sucks the least during the premiere season of this "Golden Age of Television."
Last night, Rich watched CBS' Hostages, Beejoli watched NBC's The Blacklist, and unfortunately, they both watched CBS' Mom.
Rich: Hostages is like the worst direct-to-video cliche-ridden bullshit with B-list stars.
Beejoli: Dylan McDermott is not B-list! Is he? He is.
Rich: He's totally B-list. Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott are too good for this, but they're bent on acting like they aren't.
Beejoli: Do you think Hostages would be better if United States of Tara Toni Collette showed up?
Rich: I don't know. It would be better if she didn't mug so much. There's a scene at the very end where she has temporarily halted this plot to kill the president and she is being interviewed outside the hospital and she goes "I don't give up that easily," and looks RIGHT AT THE CAMERA SLASH DYLAN MCDERMOTT'S CHARACTER. I mean, it's a take. This show and Mom reminded me of my problem with TV.
Beejoli: Okay, but I also don't understand. How did Dylan pick her? Is she a famous surgeon? Also, why go to the effort of having a doctor kill the president? It doesn't seem that hard to just kill the president when you're on TV.
Rich: Yeah, I guess we should backpedal. So, she's a very good surgeon. "Famous" probably isn't the right word but she's well-regraded. She's going to operate on the president and this is national news. So McDermott, who works for the FBI, takes her family hostage and gives her drugs to slip into the President's system while he's under. Apparently they won't be traceable, but she's dubious. Also she doesn't want to kill a man. Especially the President and particularly when he's her patient.
Beejoli: Oh so he really IS in the FBI, then. What's he so mad about?
Rich: I missed this, but from what Wikipedia tells me, he wants to help his wife.
Beejoli: John Q meets White House Down.
Rich: Meets Homeland (Israeli adaptation/surveillance footage) meets The Purge (home invasion). He also has a daughter named Soy Soy, which was the most confusing part of the show. ANYWAY, McDermott is chewing the scenery. Gravel-whispering.
Beejoli: I mean that's the only reason to tune in: that finely chiseled stubble.
Rich: Doing that action-hero thing: looking far off while saying something ballsy and brilliant and heroic and nonchalant.
Beejoli: Do you think it's hard to follow since it's not a procedural?
Rich: No it was very, very easy to follow.
Beejoli: I hate being behind on stuff, but I hate keeping up with stuff more.
Rich: It was simple. I don't know how long the show can maintain this premise though. Collette's character gave the President blood thinner, which she then "detected" and used as an excuse to call off the surgery. How long can she put it off though? And once whatever happens, happens, will her family still be hostages? AND if they are, and these invaders are living with them, at what point do they become family?
Beejoli: If this becomes a show about Stockholm Syndrome I will be on board.
Rich: I mean, it's a crazy, cobbled-together family. But that's the stuff TV is made of.
Beejoli: Also, how long is the President just IN the hospital? It seems like health problems could put a real clock on this situation. This show is bananas.
Rich: It's dumb but I'm kind of interested to see how it's going to work itself out. How long before the title becomes entirely irrelevant? How long before Toni Collette starts pulling her hair out?
Beejoli: Is no one going to notice when the husband and kids just stop showing up at work and school?
Rich: Oh they're letting the family go about their business but they're shadowing them. The anti-President FBI agents.
Beejoli: These are the worst hostage takers ever.
Rich: They are throwing a bag over Toni's head in the next episode so that should be fun. Really, as distasteful as I find it, I just want to watch McDermott play out his action-hero fantasies and Collette make more faces at the camera. Oh and her daughter is pregnant and her son is dealing drugs. Something with drugs. He owes a dealer $1200.
Beejoli: Wow. They really just threw every single issue they could.
Rich: Yeah. Take a guess what the husband's issue is. Just guess.
Rich: YUP. And the feds know! So they've roped him in. So now he's encouraging her to kill the president.
Beejoli: "The only thing scarier than the hostage-taker with the AK-47 to your head is YOUR WIFE FINDING OUT YOU CHEATED ON HER."
Rich: The whole thing is such trash. BUT. It's almost...comfortingly pulpy. It's a commentary on family facades. MODERN FAMILY FACADES. Who's the hostage? And of what? Love? Lies? I can't wait to get to the bottom of these issues via a rapidly edited action-movie scenario.
Beejoli: We are all hostages of our own choices.
Rich: That's deep. Anyways, that's Hostages. This season is like a bunch of one-night stands in that I watch a lot of pilots of shows I never return to. But Hostages is fuck buddy material.
Beejoli: Okay so The Blacklist is basically just an "edgy" version of White Collar, with uglier people.
Rich: I've never watched White Collar.
Beejoli: Me either, but I saw a commercial once during a Law & Order marathon.
Rich: Interesting that something edgy is on NBC though.
Beejoli: "Edgy" not edgy. Attempted edginess, execution debatable. James Spader is also very gravelly. Demi-voice is the new edgy.
Rich: Oooh, one more and it's a trend!
Beejoli: SO. White Collar is just a white collar criminal pairing up with an FBI agent - as long as he helps the FBI solve cases, he remains a free man of some kind. Everyone (Matt Bomer) is very beautiful. In The Blacklist, it is much of the same. James Spader shows up and surrenders himself off the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list.
Rich: God, FBI is the new Demi-voice.
Beejoli: Yes! Very edgy. Spader then starts telling them how to foil a terrorist plot aimed at Washington D.C. and some admiral's daughter.
Rich: I see, so he is morally COMPLEX.
Beejoli: Yes. But the catch - he will only work with some rookie agent, Elizabeth Keen. Needless to say, the two work together, the plot is foiled, and then Spader reveals he has a much longer list of said criminals: ones the agency doesn't even KNOW exist.
Rich: Is it a sex thing?
Beejoli: Nah, it's a thinly veiled daughter thing. The mention up top that Spader was in the Naval Academy and abandoned his wife and daughter, and they often reference how Liz's father was a career criminal (though one agent asks "How the fuck did you get that past background check?" and she doesn't answer).
Rich: Ohhhhhhhh so she's his actual daughter, not just a reverse daddy-issues scenario. You never hear about the daddies with daddy issues. I guess child issues.
Beejoli: It is so forced down your throat that I think they WON'T make her his daughter. THAT would be edgy. NBC, that's my free advice! Take it!
Rich: Oh god, that is so stupid. Does it FEEL that stupid?
Rich: I hate this show. I hate Hostages, but I hate it like I hated my mom for like a day in high school.
Beejoli: The WORST part of all of this—and mind you, I kind of sort of liked it?—but the worst part is that the pilot plot was literally ripped from Homeland.
Rich: What. Shut up. Homeland-referencing is the new Homeland.
Beejoli: A terrorist is targeting a large children-based terror plot (blow up the DC Zoo) to avenge the bombing of his village and death of his child. Complete with multiple boards up in the FBI room of different news clips, photos, what have you, that Spader reorganizes for them, Carrie-style, while encouraging Elizabeth to think like a criminal. Until she finally has an epiphany and yells "WAIT! It's about his FAMILY."
Rich: This is insane. Almost worth watching for the shamelessness. I mean, that's a craft: shamelessness.
Beejoli: Actually, fuck it, every TV critic loves Blacklist so I'll just say it: it was supbar as shit. And the only reason I liked it is because we all know about my proclivities towards bad television.
Rich: I admire your candor. We at Gawker Media are all about tearing down the establishment.
Beejoli: In one of the top scenes, Elizabeth is asked to "profile" herself (she's an FBI profiler, of course), and she breaks down how she is a narcissist, she avoids attachment, she "shuts down" when she feels grilled, etc. Unfortunately, all the things she says DO NOT MATCH anything you saw of her before (in a loving montage getting ready for work with her husband) or after (the terrorists capture him and she is noticeably very upset as she vigorously scrubs his blood out of their berber carpet).
Rich: Clearly she contains multitudes, Beejoli.
Beejoli: It is like when girls at bars say things like "I only have guy friends" or "I never cry." These are just lies you say to sound cool and get laid.
Rich: They want to fuck a narcissist!
Beejoli: Nothing she did, including allowing herself to potentially be killed to save a 6 year old displayed narcissism. IT'S OKAY TO ADMIT YOU FEEL FEELINGS.
Rich: Maybe it's coming.
Rich: Maybe she's a pathological liar. Maybe it's a statement on the elusiveness of self-awareness. MAYBE THE SHOW IS SHITTY.
Beejoli: Also, her amazing sweet husband is secretly also some kind of international mystery man. Which she discovers after tearing up the carpet beause she didn't know that baking soda and water will lift blood stains right out of the carpet, and she finds a box full of passports of his under different aliases and wads of cash. For an FBI agent, I gotta say, she must not be very good at her job. She missed THE TERRORIST LIVING IN HER VAGINA.
Rich: She's as good as an FBI agent as Dylan McDermott is as a hostage-taker. Anyway, I have to say that while I will continue to watch Hostages (I think), you have not convinced me to watch Blacklist. I want nothing to do with that show, frankly.
Beejoli: Oh and it has Homeland stars in it, just FYI. Mike from Homeland, who was also Shane Oman from Mean Girls.
Rich: He is such a stud. I like that that's his pop cultural position. Stud. We need more of those.
Beejoli: Agreed. Though sadly, he is very skinny here. Did you watch Mom? I couldn't even comprehend how horrible it was.
Rich: Yes. Just awful Total squandering of talent. It does that TV thing where people are just stupid and awful and doing incomprehensible things for nothing. Like, why was Anna Faris' character crying while waiting tables? "Here's your protagonist, an unstable dolt." "Oh cool, thanks. I needed another one of those in my life."
Beejoli: The most noteable (not best) part was how unrecognizable French Stewart has become.
Rich: Yeah, right? I thought a lot about it was really offensive. Like how the single mom who gave birth at a young age is an idiot. And also That Anna Faris is PLAYING A MOTHER OF A TEENAGER. I mean, it's like Hollywood is just getting worse and worse to women. Fuck that show.
Beejoli: I was mildy offended by the jokes and completely offended by the lack of comedy. "I saw you chowing down on a Big Mac!"
Rich: "My daughter's an easy lay and it's not my fault!" "It's Alcoholics Anonymous, not Alcoholics Tell Your Waiter!"
Beejoli: Also, and I know this sounds awful but if my mom only got clean 120 some days ago, would the house look that nice and the kids that well adjusted? Who is paying for this 3 bedroom? This is what happens when you let very rich people try to make a show about what they think very poor people live like. "Let's just use some sconces that were on SALE at Home Depot and it'll be fine."
Rich: Also, she's having an affair with her married boss? She's so negligent that she doesn't recognize her daughter's boyfriend of a single year? She can't do her waitressing job well? Is there any reason at all to care about that character? No one writing the show does, clearly.
Beejoli: This is the problem with all comedies is they never make you care about any of the characters enough. Allison Janney just SHOWED up halfway through.
Rich: And then left! And then came back for that last scene. Oooh, chemistry.
Beejoli: I would rather watch every episode of Dads than one episode of Mom.
Rich: Fuck that show.
WINNER: Hostages, because it's fun to watch Dylan McDermott at last get to act out his gravel-voiced action hero fantasies.