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Hostages, a drama led by Dylan McDermott and Toni Collette about Ellen Sanders, a surgeon who is forced to decide whether to kill the president or have her family killed, is hoping to take network television to a different level.
The show is “a chance to do something new on network television,” executive producer Jeffrey Nachmanoff told reporters gathered on Monday at the Television Critics Association press tour. The 15-episode order differentiates itself from the traditional series, which often sees 22 (or more) episodes, and follows the successes of similarly-modeled CBS’ Under the Dome and Fox’s The Following.
But don’t call Hostages a miniseries. Executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer, as well as the other producers, have high hopes Hostages can sustain its story beyond a first season. “This is not a miniseries for us,” Bruckheimer said, adding that he hopes to get two seasons or more.
“The show is definitely open-ended,” executive producer Rick Eid said. “As far as season two goes, we have a lot of ideas where season two can go.”
Nachmanoff noted that the title of the show shouldn’t be taken literally. “It’s really a metaphor,” he said, adding that it’s not just a show about people held hostage physically.
Producers fielded questions about just how far — and long — the show can take the mystery without viewers feeling fatigue. “It’s a cat and mouse story,” Eid said. “Every episode is another turn of the screw. … We’re not trying to avoid the question.”
One thing that set Hostages apart, argued the producers, was the inclusion of scenes from what would be future episodes that helped advertisers gauge where the show was headed that was shown during the May upfront.
“It was a proof of concept,” Nachmanoff said of the “purely serialized” drama. “We decided to use that to show there was a series here.” As he explained it, the producers utilized those extra scenes depicting the trajectory of the drama as sign posts for where they could take Hostages during its season-one run.
“It was actually a huge inspirational spur for us mapping out the series,” Nachmanoff admitted, adding that it gave the writers a “huge” boost in crafting the season. “There are sign posts,” he said. “It was fun and helpful,” and helped separate the show from the rest.
Though the writers have a season-long blueprint set, they are aware that things might change — though it’s the journey to the destination that might be most malleable. “As they say, no plan survives contact with the enemy,” Nachmanoff said.
“We’re going to go for it, and we’re going to live and die [by it],” he added, emphasizing later: “We’re not pulling any punches. There won’t be any delay tactics.”
Some season teases were also shared: The family will try and escape, and in their attempt, one of them gets shot; one of the characters gets killed; more backstory for Ellen; and there will be a Stockholm Syndrome storyline.
Hostages premieres on Sept. 23 at 10 p.m. on CBS.
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