The golden age of TV drama will not include STANDOFF I’m afraid. There is a danger that one hour shows will become formulaic and STANDOFF is leading that charge.
It stars Ron “When am I going to be the next George Clooney already?” Livingstone and Rosemarie DeWitt (Gillian Anderson meets Annabeth Gish) as FBI hostage negotiators.
The FBI must have 73 divisions and there is now a show for every one of them. I’m waiting to meet the courageous team that oversees payroll.
The guy-girl hunk team is now a standard. But in fairness to STANDOFF, that’s across the board. Everyone in drama is hot looking. There are no ugly people solving crimes or saving lives. According to television, on career day all the beauty queens gravitated towards the forensics booth. Even House is only “TV ugly”, and by that I mean, scuffed up but oooh those dreamy blue eyes (that get 56 close ups an episode).
These gun toting prom king and queens all seem to bicker but we know better. There’s sexual tension going on there. But the twist in STANDOFF is…there’s no tension. They’re going out. And they’ve even announced that to their boss. Their big roadblock is that they’re not allowed to kiss or even hold hands at hostage scenes.
As for the premise itself, it’s all familiar territory. And when you’ve seen Denzel Washington, Kevin Spacey, and Samuel L. Jackson (“there’s muthafuckin’ hostages on the plane”) do these scenes, Ron Livingstone pales. By week two they were already bargaining with the two dozen pizzas.
And by the nature of the premise, there’s little or no action. The crafty negotiators “convince” the kidnapper-of-the-week (who’s usually just a well meaning regular schmoe who’s misunderstood) to give up before anyone gets hurt. For suspense there’s a clock attached. If last week’s air traffic controllers aren’t freed soon passengers will miss their connections.
It reminds me of a show from the mid 80’s called THE EQUALIZER. Edward Woodward, a fine middle aged British actor with a decent rug, played Robert McCall, a former agent now for hire for underdogs who needed protection. He was smart, he was tough. But he couldn’t do any action. The actor was recovering from a heart attack. So every week the exciting climax was McCall saying to the bad guy (who he never had to chase), “Drop the gun. I’m serious!” Hearing the word “serious” the villain always dropped the gun. Something about that accent, every hardened criminal knew he had met his match.
STANDOFF has the same boffo socko endings except their stars are fit.
Between the perfect COP-les, the procedurals, the running serials, the insidious plots to overthrow the government, the medical shows, lawyer shows, psychic crimefighter shows, quirky detective shows, and Ann Heche in “Diane Chambers goes to Northern Exposure” – most dramas are trading originality for franchise. Take a lesson from comedy where even a show called STILL STANDING isn’t.