March 16, 2014

THE SKED Pilot Report: “Crisis”


Read All Our Fall Pilot Reports here and Midseason Pilot Reports here.

CRISIS:  Sunday 10PM on NBC – If Nothing Else is On…

Funny story.  Remember how last fall, there was a serialized thriller about a high-stakes political kidnapping in Washington whose victims included teens called Hostages that flopped badly?  NBC would prefer that you don’t, because it’s about to air CRISIS, its own serialized thriller about a high-stakes political kidnapping in Washington where the victims include teens, and if you forget Hostages existed, maybe it’ll look brand new.  (Hilariously, NBC has only increased the confusion factor by casting Dermot Mulroney in Crisis, so famously interchangeable with Hostages’ Dylan McDermott that SNL did an entire sketch about the pair.)

Crisis, in truth, isn’t a particularly bad show.  Its creator, Rand Ravich, was the man behind the sadly short-lived Life, and the pilot has its share of plot reversals and a solid cast that includes Gillian Anderson and Rachael Taylor along with Mulroney.  But it all feels rather routine–even without factoring in Hostages.  This time, the baddies (who include, as in Hostages, someone very knowledgeable about government tactics whose identity is meant as a surprise) hijack a private school bus as it’s taking its students on a field trip to New York.  The passengers include not just the President’s son, but a whole load of privileged teens, the sons and daughters of corporate tycoons and royalty.  While the goal of the Hostages villians was clear (well, before the show muddied it up)–they wanted Toni Collette’s surgeon character to kill the President on the operating table–the Crisis pilot leaves the aims of the attackers somewhat vague.  Also, Crisis has a more standard Hollywood hero in FBI agent Susie Dunn (Taylor), whose sister Meg Fitch (Anderson) is one of those corporate titans and who has a very personal stake in the safety of the hostages.  (Crisis borrows from White House Down for its other hero, a novice Secret Service agent played by Lance Gross who’s essentially Channing Tatum’s character from that movie.)  Mulroney is the mild-mannered dad of one of the school’s few scholarship students, Beth Ann (Stevie Lynn Jones), who’s serving as a chaperone on the trip.

It’s impossible not to compare two such similar shows, and Hostages, at least in its pilot, had an interesting psychological edge that Crisis lacks, with complicated relationships among the hostage family and the kidnappers.  The Crisis hostages are mostly generic:  spunky class president Amber (Halston Sage), Mulroney’s daughter who’s bitter at her parents’ marriage breaking up, and a sidekick for the Secret Service agent in roly-poly Anton (Joshua Erenberg), who’s like a live-action version of the kid in Up.  Crisis also seems like something of a 24 retread, with shootouts and helicopter pursuits (capably handled by bigscreen director Philip Noyce, whose films include Salt and Clear and Present Danger) interspersed with the FBI Director (Michael Beach) barking out orders and agents worriedly scrutinizing computer screens.

The one thing Crisis does have going for it is fairly light competition in its post-football Sunday 10PM slot.  The Mentalist on CBS is loping toward its senior years, and ABC’s Revenge, if it didn’t air on a network with such a wrecked schedule, might be headed to cancellation.  So although Crisis is less promising than its predecessor, there still may be some viewers for it.  And who knows?  Maybe ABC can launch its own Washington kidnapping tale next season.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."