TV review: Homeland-lite Channel 4 drama Hostages makes an exhilarating start but doesn’t quite capture the imagination

Just as well that this pilot episode got stuck straight into the action

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The Independent Culture

When predicting the quality of new TV dramas, casting is usually key, but Hostages, which began on Saturday on Channel 4, sent out mixed signals.

On the one hand, we’ve got Toni Collette, Oscar-nominated star of American indie cinema and all-round class act. Her inclusion speaks of quality. On the other, we’ve got her co-stars Tate Donovan and Dylan McDermott, who, between them, have played every eyebrow-cocking bounder and school-play-missing father in every bad TV movie since 1993.

It’s as well then, that this pilot episode got stuck straight into the action, leaving little time for reflection. Collette plays Dr Ellen Sanders, a heart surgeon scheduled to perform surgery on the US President and McDermott plays a rogue FBI agent who plans to force Ellen to assassinate the Prez by holding her husband (Donovan) and two children hostage.

Hostages also borrows its plot from a hit Israeli drama, so it’s been touted as the new Homeland. Actually, it was more like the new 24: same shouty, adrenalin-pumped pomposity, same ticking-clock tension (the President’s surgery was scheduled for a few hours’ time) and the same potential to veer into ever more implausible plot directions. Until that moment comes, however, we can enjoy the exhilarating ride you’d expect from exec producer Jerry “Blow ’em up” Bruckheimer. Say what you will about Con Air and Armageddon, but this guy knows how to hold an audience’s attention.