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New Fall Season: 'Hostages' needs more twists to keep audiences captive

Mondays at 10 p.m. on CBS

There's almost no way you've missed the commercials for CBS's new drama "Hostages" -- they've been running on television, online and in movie theaters for what seems like five months now.

So you probably already know it's a show in which Dylan McDermott and a crew of baddies take Toni Collette (playing a surgeon) and her family hostage, then try to force the doctor to kill the President of the United States while he's on her operating table.

And therefore, you pretty much know almost everything that happens in the pilot.

Almost. You see, McDermott's character is also an FBI agent, which is a big wrinkle, though we're not yet sure if the rest of his gang are agents or criminals or whatever. Something else we don't learn in the pilot, but which is central to the story, is exactly why McDermott's Agent Duncan Carlisle is doing this. He's not a nut job or terrorist or political extremist (I don't think...); instead, the pilot indicates his scheme has a deeply personal motivation and a far-reaching conspiracy. I've been racking my brain and can't connect those dots -- yet -- and that alone should be enough to keep me watching.

It certainly won't be concern for the Sanders family that keeps me coming back for more. Dr. Ellen Sanders' (Collette) husband (Tate Donovan) and two troubled teenagers (yawn), all of whom are hiding some deep, dark secrets of their own, so far haven't inspired any loyalty in me. Will they shoot the husband!? Enh, whatever. For almost all of the pilot, the only Sanders I had much regard for was the family dog, Barkley.

But at the very end of the first episode there is a hint of what I hope -- and expect -- to see in Dr. Sanders for the rest of this story, and that is a strong, assured, brave woman with a spine of steel who will not only stand up to the intruders threatening her family and the president, but perhaps even outsmart them. Here's hoping, anyway.

"Hostages" is entertaining enough (FYI: I think "Blacklist" playing opposite on NBC is better), but there will have to be a lot of twists and turns to keep this "kill the president or we kill your family" plot running for a whole season (or longer).

THE NEW FALL SEASON: 'American Horror Story'

"American Horror Story," a freaky new horror series from the team who brought us "Nip/Tuck" and "Glee," is easily the most polarizing new show of the fall season. Among television critics, there's very little gray area: you're either into it, or you despise it.

I think I'm into it.

I admit up front I have no idea what Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk are trying to do here. But I do know that "American Horror Story" is among the scariest things I've ever watched.

The series follows a couple as they move their teenage daughter to Los Angeles to try to heal their marriage and make a fresh start. The problem is they move into the most haunted house in the history of haunted houses. We're talking "gaping Hellmouth" kind of haunted. There are no romantic vampires or buff werewolves in this house. Right down to the last nail in the last creaky floorboard, this is a house of pure, ugly evil.

Dark Blue: It's got a lot of explaining to do



When I was checking out TNT's "Hawthorne" I forced myself to watch two episodes, hoping it would get better.

It didn't, but some shows do. Sometimes a first episode, the 'pilot' in TV talk, is not as good as the series will be.

I didn't get a chance to watch a second episode of "Dark Blue", which premieres tonight at 10 on TNT.

But I saw glimmers of what it could be toward the end of the pilot, and it made me want see what develops.

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