'Blacklist' vs. 'Hostages': Fall TV face-off
September 24th, 2013
11:59 AM ET

'Blacklist' vs. 'Hostages': Fall TV face-off

On Monday, the fall TV season began in earnest.

CBS premiered two new shows - a comedy, "Mom," and a drama from Jerry Bruckheimer, "Hostages" - while NBC presented its James Spader-led pilot, "The Blacklist."

"Mom," a new Chuck Lorre sitcom starring Anna Faris as a recovering alcoholic and single mother living in Napa Valley, is so far looking pretty promising. (It's Anna Faris and Allison Janney, which is enough of a win for us.)

But the showdown between "Hostages" and "The Blacklist" is trickier.

"Hostages" stars Toni Collette as an in-demand Washington, D.C. surgeon named Ellen Sanders. When she's tapped to operate on the president, the good doctor finds herself in a crazy situation: a rogue FBI agent named Duncan Carlisle (Dylan McDermott) gets wind of her impending surgery and assembles a team to hold Ellen, her husband (Tate Donovan) and their two teen kids hostage. Carlisle's mission is to convince Ellen to get her to "accidentally" kill the president during surgery, or he'll kill her family.

"Hostages" stands apart in the network TV realm because it's just 15 episodes versus the more traditional 22 to 24, but it's definitely on-theme with the politics-heavy programming that's become popular. In the eyes of CBS executives, that's probably a selling point - but perhaps not so much for audiences.

"The problem for 'Hostages' (beyond McDermott's habit of relying too heavily on the 'whisper shout' line delivery that has become his trademark) is that viewers have been burned by this kind of ongoing mystery once too often," said USA Today.

Yet if the production team is clever, they might be able to spin the suspense of the pilot episode into intriguing TV, argues the Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman, who admitted that he'll be watching for at least a few more episodes. "It’s a pretty great first hour, and if they can keep up the suspense before changing direction, it might be a feat worth watching every week."

By contrast, "The Blacklist" is another hour-long drama that stars Spader as a charismatic but traitorous former government agent - and one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives - named Raymond "Red" Reddington. At the start of the premiere, Red turns himself in to the authorities with the offer of helping them catch a terrorist. His one condition? That he speaks solely to newcomer FBI agent Liz Keen (Megan Boone).

If you're thinking that sounds heavily reminiscent of "The Silence of the Lambs," that's because it is - but with Spader as its star, "The Blacklist" is able to pull ahead.

"'The Blacklist' has Spader run every page of the Wicked Genius Playbook: luxuriating in a five-star hotel room, sneering at his handlers while cuffed to a chair, savoring a fine glass of red wine with an epicurean reverie," says Time magazine's James Poniewozik. "He’s a ham, but an effective one, which is to say that he lets the audience enjoy his own sheer enjoyment of playing the outsize role ... But to the extent that Reddington is compelling, it’s because Spader is doing all the work. ... The show’s success moving ahead is going to depend on how interesting Reddington and Keen’s back-stories become."

Looking at them side-by-side, the Huffington Post's Maureen Ryan agrees that "Hostages" is one Spader short of a solid show.

"Both pilots accomplish what they set out to do, and while 'Hostages' is marginally more compelling, at least 'Blacklist' arrives with a tasty side of ham," she says.

In this face-off, we're calling it a draw. Did you catch the premieres? What did you think?

Filed under: Fall TV • television

soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. bootyjuice

    hostages is lame... dont you think homeland or secret service going to tap all you home, cell, and work phones if you are about to work on the president?

    October 15, 2013 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
  2. hacks while mom was in hospital....report her as abuse.


    October 2, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
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    October 2, 2013 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Marketta

    I agree...once the show gets over the hump it will be a smooth sailing season.

    October 1, 2013 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  5. danlb

    The Blacklist started off on the right footing, but the second episode is starting to look like many other ABC formula shows: too cute, too quick, and too smarmy, which all equals too slick. I'll stick with it a while because of Spader, but I'll lose interest if it keeps going the way it's going now.

    October 1, 2013 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. lili fake

    Flip her the bird

    September 28, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Did not happen...Nope

    she's busy blacklisting everyone...i knew it...

    September 27, 2013 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  8. Meh

    Go James Spader!

    September 26, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Almost Gone

    joey-she thinks i am blacklisted now.- type a resume.

    September 26, 2013 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  10. jim

    Blacklist was excellent! Spader is fantastic, as his the female FBI agent!

    September 26, 2013 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  11. new fall line up

    Plugs out on new fall line up..she is not busy we are

    September 25, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Denise

    Loved Blacklist!

    September 25, 2013 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cassie

    Loved Blacklist!! James Spader is fantastic. So...what if he planted the fake passports etc in the floor at her house? He manipulates everyone...maybe it's a fake out?

    September 25, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Blacklist

    Doubt it....the old lady is way too strong.

    September 25, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
  15. william rapelye

    BLACKlist was an entertaining show with great acting and a MANY twists. A MUST WATCH!!!!!!!

    September 25, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • five-o

      the actress is way too in charge of the scripts–not happening

      September 25, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  16. lastlap

    I watched Castle and it was really good, so I don't think I missed anything.

    September 25, 2013 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  17. M.A.P.

    Haven't seen either show, but judging from the comments Blacklist is the better of the two. That's a shame because I really love Toni Collette, United States of Tara was a fantastic show and I cried in the last episode. She is so amazing, if you ever get the chance, see "Murial's Wedding" from 1993. She plays an Abba obsessed geek who steals her parents money and runs away, it's one of my favourite movies.

    September 25, 2013 at 4:27 am | Report abuse |
  18. mom

    isn't the they captured me, now I'm going to dole out information! trope a little bit overplayed by now. Like in Silence of the Lamb, The Dark Knight (to a small degree), The Following, etc etc etc

    September 24, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Lori

    I watched both and found Hostages boooorrring. I didn't care about any of those characters – including McDermott's little girl. I thought it moved excruciatingly slow moving and I didn't care about their backstories either.

    Blacklist however, moved at a fast pace, I cared for the characters right away and they threw in just enough mysteries to keep me coming back for more. Spader is brilliant and Megan Boone is beautiful and can hold her own against Spader. I have high hopes for this one.

    September 24, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Shad

    Blacklist. Did anyone else think that the symbol on the top of the box that Liz found under the floor looked ALOT like the scar Liz has on her wrist?

    September 24, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  21. webone

    Blacklist – see more reviews

    September 24, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Brian

    I like Blacklist. I fail to see how Hostages can develop over time into a multi-season series, even if ratings are great. It is one of those shows that has the ending in sight before the show starts. Either she kills the President or she doesnt, but where does the story go from there?

    Blacklist, on the other hand, could easily run several seasons, depending on the length of the Blacklist.

    September 24, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phyllis

      Watched Castle and Hostage. Agree Hostage does not look long term, will watch Blacklist next week.

      September 24, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  23. justBetsy

    I like Blacklist better–but it's too obvious that Raymond might turn out to be Liz's father (hence his deep interest in her). Question is whether he had the passports of her husband planted or just set events up for her to find them–i.e., is the husband innocent? or another blacklister? or a plant by someone who hoped that Raymond would turn up at his daughter's eventually.

    September 24, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Courtney

      I think it's too obvious that he's her father. I think he isn't, because they made it too easy. I think he knows her father. Maybe her father's brother? He has been "obsessed" with her, so he cares about her, but it just seems too easy that he is her father. If that's the case, the story development is a bit shallow and it will kind of irk me.

      September 24, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • rp

      well we know she knows her father to some degree. She told the little girl her scar was a gift from her father, and earlier she said she got it from a fire. So i dont think hes her father.

      September 24, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Siri

    The Blacklist was definitly the better show. I DVR'd both and i found the twists and turns in Blacklist likeable and interesting.

    September 24, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
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      September 26, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bologna

      was not even home last night.

      September 26, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |

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