March 23, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Crisis”


CRISIS:  Sunday 10PM on NBC

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on CRISIS:  On its way to a field trip in New York, a class of students from a Washington DC private school are kidnapped by a large and well-organized group of captors, and in the course of the crime, first-day Secret Service agent Marcus Finley (Lance Gross) is shot by his own partner.  These hostages aren’t just ordinary students:  the Secret Service was there because one of the students is Kyle Devore (Adam Scott Miller), the son of the US President, while others are the children of tycoons and royalty.  Two are particularly key to the plot.  Amber Fitch (Halston Sage) believes herself to be the daughter of industrialist Meg (Gillian Anderson), but in fact her biological mother is Meg’s sister Susie Dunn (Rachael Taylor), who happens to be the lead FBI agent on the case.  Scholarship student Beth Ann Gibson (Stevie Lynn Jones) is the daughter of Francis (Dermot Mulroney), a chaperone on the trip who appears to be a mild-mannered former CIA analyst–but who may be the mastermind behind the entire kidnapping plot.  On the other hand, by the end of the pilot it’s clear that several of the kidnapping’s participants (including the senior Secret Service agent) are being manipulated by as-yet unseen villains.

Episode 2:  Crisis has an awful lot of moving parts–maybe too many for its own good.  The second hour, written by series creator Rand Ravich and directed by Peter Markle, further developed the idea that the parents of the kidnapped students are going to be used to further the kidnappers’ larger goals, as Meg Fitch followed orders to pay a $20M ransom and smuggle (through her sister) a chip into FBI headquarters that would bring down Bureau communications, and the Pakistani ambassador was compelled to reveal that a mysterious CIA safe house (with US soldiers drugged and/or injured within) was located inside a locked room of the Pakistani embassy (although with the help of Finley–back almost instantly on the job after suspicions that he was part of the plot–and his reluctant new partner Susie, the ambassador didn’t have to kill the embassy’s CIA liaison as originally ordered).  Despite the suggestions in the pilot that Francis Gibson was another pawn of the kidnapping’s overlords, he seemed very much in control of events in this episode, including engineering the beating of his own daughter when she made trouble by creating noise that a passing drone plane might hear.

It all made for a fair amount of excitement and a fast pace, but there’s no center to the show thus far.  The feel is something like what 24 would have been without a Jack Bauer:  one eyebrow-raising melodramatic reveal and threatened disaster after another, endless intimations of giant cover-ups and ulterior motives, with nothing to hold onto.  Taylor is probably meant to provide that center, but not only is she lacking in Kiefer Sutherland’s crazy intensity, Susie herself is so fragmented from most of the action that she can’t sustain the show’s focus.  Every adult character may be a secret villain (I wouldn’t trust that kindly English teacher, the other chaperone, too much), and the scenes between the teens are the script’s most strained.  There’s something wrong when Crisis is two hours old and the only human relationship that’s registering so far is the one between Finley and Anton (Joshua Erenberg), the nebbishy little genius the Secret Service agent rescued in the pilot.

Crisis didn’t make much of an impression in the ratings last week.  Luckily, it’s in one of the weakest hours on the primetime schedule, competing with Revenge and The Mentalist.  (It beat the latter but not the former.)  For now it’s intriguing enough to justify its air of mystery, but if it doesn’t want to go down the same rabbit hole of contrivance and meaningless reversals that doomed the very similar Hostages, it’ll need to declare a plot and character direction sooner rather than later.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  At Least it’s Better Than BELIEVE



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."