Monday, September 04, 2006

Will they or won't... oh, wait a minute

On Fox's "Standoff," which debuts tomorrow night:

I'M ALL IN FAVOR of TV shows that dispense with the tired-to-the-point-of-comatose "will they or won't they?" Unresolved Sexual Tension gimmick, but the new Fox drama "Standoff" (tomorrow, 9 p.m., Ch. 5) goes even a step further than I would.

The story of two FBI hostage negotiators whose secret romance gets outed to complicate their work life, "Standoff" doesn't even bother to draw out the secret for more than three minutes, and skips past the start of the relationship. Forget "will they or won't they?" Here, it's "when exactly did they?"

Ron Livingston, the immensely likable regular guy actor from "Office Space" and "Band of Brothers," plays Matt Flannery, who in attempting to defuse a hostage crisis in the show's opening scene, admits over an open radio channel that he's been sleeping with partner Emily Lehman (Jersey native Rosemarie DeWitt, granddaughter of "Cinderella Man" hero James Braddock) for the last three months, against Bureau protocol. The crisis is resolved without anybody dying, and Matt, greeted with eye-daggers from Emily, shrugs and says, "What!"

This is followed by some harrumphing from their boss (and Matt's ex-partner), Cheryl Carrera (Gina Torres from "Firefly," wasted as the stock Disapproving Minority Captain), some ribbing by gung-ho tactical team leader Frank Perry (Michael Cudlitz), and bickering between Matt and Emily over whether they should stay partners, lovers, both or neither.

Problem is, while Livingston and DeWitt have nice chemistry together, it's hard to shake the feeling that this should have all happened in the second episode, or the sixth, both to have some fun with how they decided to dip their pens in the company ink and to give us a foundation to actually care about whether or not they break up.

To read the full column (which also includes a dissection of the inaugural MyNetwork TV offerings and whether they achieve "so bad it's good" status), click here. Happy Labor Day. Off to throw my daughter the best (albeit only) three-year-old birthday party she's ever had.


Tosy And Cosh said...

Haven't seen the show, and not sure I will, but to play Devil's Advocate regarding the use of such a seemingly extreme in media res pilot - it's very possible, especially in these flashback-happy times we live in - that the genesis of the relationship WILL be explored, perhaps even in some detail. And maybe losing the build up is a fair trade-off for the benefits of starting so dramatically with the show's central conflict?

Alan Sepinwall said...

But the thing is, it doesn't start off so dramatically. The reveal of the secret relationship is played for a laugh. And now that we're in the relationship, I don't even care how it started. The genesis, to me, is only important in getting me, as a viewer, to invest in them as a couple, which the pilot fails to do.

I'm a Livingston fan going back to Swingers, and I like Rosemarie DeWitt, so I'll be around for a few weeks, but it's not a great start.

Tosy And Cosh said...

OK, so maybe it's NOT such a good idea to try and defend a show I haven't actually, you know, seen.

BF said...

Hey look, it's Hillary starring as the Mom!

Sadly, that was the most interesting part of the episode. Now back to the LOST II DVDs.

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday, Julia!

I didn't watch the show. I like Ron Livingston, but not enough to check this show out.

In more important matters, what did you get Julia for her birthday? :-)

Anonymous said...

Not only did I not care about the two characters as a couple, I didn't care whether or not they "saved" anyone in the hostage situation. Basically, it failed on all counts.

But I guess that is just as well, because I am counting on Veronica Mars and Friday Night Lights to keep me busy on Tuesdays.