Morally murky drama is compelling, tense; some violence.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Love for one's family is stressed; as a surgeon, Ellen Sanders explicitly professes her desire to help and care for her patients meticulously.

Positive role models

It's certainly refreshing to see a female doctor at the center of high-level action, and the cast boasts racial and ethnic diversity. Villains are depicted as complex and aren't simply "bad guys" but people with principles and goals.


Guns are brandished and fired; characters are threatened and sometimes killed. We see bodies fall and blood but no gore. Main characters are frequently in mortal jeopardy.


A teen character is sexually active and may be pregnant.


Some cursing: "What the hell?"

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some discussion of drugs as a teen character "deals weed."

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.

Parents say

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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.

Families can talk 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?

  • Compare this show to other tense dramas, such as Lost or Fringe. How is Hostages different from or similar to these shows?

  • 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?

TV details

Cast:Dylan McDermott, Tate Donovan, Toni Collette
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:Streaming

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  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byboxhead414 October 10, 2013


this is a good show for anyone,unless your an over protective parent and dont let them watch anything.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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