CBS knows that it has a summer hit on its hands with Under the Dome, proving that with a recent second season order. But that doesn’t mean the network is interested in copying its own successes. At a panel for the 2013 Summer Television Critics Association, the producers and stars of CBS’ upcoming thriller series Hostages were quick to point out that the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced show would not be labeled a “limited series,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Honestly, they shouldn’t have worried about calling Under the Dome that either, but you never know what will draw audiences.
But while they may not be trying to recreate their own formula, they definitely have the mass appeal of cable series like Breaking Bad guiding this decision. “It’s something a little different and outside the model of what we normally see on network TV,” said head writer and executive producer Jeffrey Nachmanoff. Opting for a season of 15 episodes instead of the traditional 22, Nachmanoff reasons that fewer episodes equals tighter storytelling.
“It lets you shape an arc without having to stretch out and tap dance,” he explained. “A lot of characters we respond to on cable [are] ordinary people in extraordinary situations,” namechecking Walter White and Weeds’s Nancy Botwin as examples. One of the show’s stars, Dylan McDermott, looks at it from an actor’s point of view, saying, “Doing a traditional broadcast series is really a marathon. Stories get repetitive. I think in this show, what’s great about it is it’s streamlined…There’s no fat in these episodes.”
Personally, I see nothing wrong with a limited series, especially when the story being told has a beginning, middle, and end. A 15-episode stretch is still longer than many amazing series in Britain, where they occasionally turn short-form storytelling into an artform.
Hostages focuses on Washington D.C. surgeon Dr. Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) and her family, who are held hostage by McDermott’s rogue FBI agent and his crew. The stipulation here is that Sanders, who will soon be performing a surgery on the President of the United States, must in fact botch that surgery and kill the President, or her family will die. It’s an interesting concept, assuming there is indeed enough story to last the season.
If you’re worried like I was that a chunk of the season would center on the actual hostage situation, it appears to be more of a nod towards the family being hostages by circumstance. “We’ll see pretty quickly in episode 2 that the family is back to their normal lives,” said executive producer Rick Eid. “This is not a family trapped in their living room for an entire season.” He went on to say they’ve already concocted ideas for where a second season could go. Call me old-timey, but I’d rather just wait until the series actually started before judging whether or not it should go any further.
Hostages will premiere on Monday, September 23. If you haven’t caught the slightly lackluster preview, you can watch it below.