A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hostages is a tense drama concerning a surgeon whose family is being held at gunpoint while she's ordered to make it look like the president of the United States died on the operating table. The family members, including teens, are held at gunpoint by mysterious strangers and are in mortal danger. Guns are brandished and fired; we see shooting deaths with blood but no gore. Victims cry and shake piteously. There is some discussion of drugs; a teen boy "deals weed" and is having trouble with a dealer friend threatening violence. A teen girl is sexually active and possibly pregnant. There is some cursing ("What the hell?"). Law-enforcement personnel are shown as sometimes being corrupt and capricious.
What's the story?
Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) has just been handed a plum task: she's the surgeon who will remove a mass from the president's lungs. However, the night before she's to operate, a mysterious group of masked kidnappers break into her house and hold her family at gunpoint, giving Sanders a terrible choice: give the president an untraceable poison and make it look like he died on the operating table, or be killed with her family. Even scarier, the kidnappers remove their masks and reveal that one of them is rogue FBI agent Duncan Carlisle (Dylan McDermott). Now there's no turning back. They're all in this together.
Is it any good?
Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott are predictably great, and here they're given juicy, meaty drama to chew on. It's an intriguing premise: Given the choice between terrible treason that upends every principle you hold dear, and keeping one's family safe in the face of near-certain death, what would any of us choose?
Every character is complex and has his or her secrets. Sanders' daughter may be pregnant; her son is consorting with drug dealers; her husband (the marvelous Tate Donovan) isn't the strong patriarch he appears to be. Even Carlisle has his reasons for doing what he's done, and a comatose wife and small daughter depend on him to return from his awful mission. The stakes are high, the twists are realistic, and the acting is very, very fine. This one's worth a look.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what choices they would make if faced with this dilemma. Would it be permissible for Ellen Sanders to go ahead and do what the kidnappers say? Or should she figure out another option?
Is the Sanders family supposed to be wealthy or poor? What gives you this idea? Are we supposed to like the family members? What about the way in which they're presented brings you to this conclusion?