Tuned In: Realism held hostage in NBC's new drama 'Crisis'

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It's increasingly clear the key difference between network and cable dramas is realism and specificity.

Cable dramas are more likely to get little details right; network dramas often fail this test, rendering them pale imitations of their cable brethren.

Not every broadcast drama attempts the realism of a cable show -- "NCIS," "Castle" and the like are character-driven procedurals that are just for fun -- and at least one broadcast series, CBS's "The Good Wife," consistently succeeds in creating characters and situations that feel real.

But NBC's latest, "Crisis" (10 p.m. Sunday, WPXI), does not. It's a serialized drama that wants to be taken seriously, but it's just not good enough in a "Breaking Bad"/"Walking Dead" TV landscape.

"Crisis" marks the second hostage drama of the 2013-14 TV season, and it's marginally more engrossing/less ridiculous in its pilot than CBS's fall flop, "Hostages."

A field trip to New York for the children of Washington, D.C., power brokers goes horribly awry when the whole busload is kidnapped.

Drones are scrambled to track down the missing kids, and FBI agent Susie Dunn (Rachael Taylor) leads the investigation, which turns out to be personal because her estranged sister, CEO Meg Fitch (Gillian Anderson), has a daughter on the bus, class president Amber (Halston Sage).

This is where "Crisis" begins to flunk the realism smell test. Would the FBI really allow the aunt of a kidnap victim to lead an investigation into her kidnapping? (It gets worse when some familial revelations come to light later in the premiere.)

In addition, the U.S. president's son is on the bus, but there are no Secret Service agents aboard; they're in vehicles ahead of and behind the bus. And for one agent, it's his first day on the job (of course!).

The field trip appears to have only two chaperones -- a teacher (James Lafferty, "One Tree Hill") and the estranged father (Dermot Mulroney) of one of the few students who is not wealthy, Beth Ann (Stevie Lynn Jones).

One of the rich kids refers to Beth Ann as "Food Stamp," an unlikely attempt at a dig from a teenager.

Written by Rand Ravich ("Life") and directed by Phillip Noyce ("Patriot Games"), the "Crisis" pilot moves at a brisk pace and does a decent job introducing its large, unwieldy cast of characters.

Like in "Hostages," the reason for the kidnapping remains unclear through the first two episodes, although there are hints that it has something to do with the lead kidnapper being framed for a secret government operation that went bad.

There's certainly a crisis in prime time for broadcast network dramas, but "Crisis" is emblematic of the problem not a solution.


CBS renewed "The Big Bang Theory" for three additional seasons, keeping it on the air through at least May 2017. The network also renewed "NCIS," "NCIS: Los Angeles," "Person of Interest," "CSI," "Hawaii Five-0," "Blue Bloods," "Criminal Minds," "Elementary," "The Good Wife," "2 Broke Girls," "The Millers," "Mike & Molly," "Mom," "Two and a Half Men," "The Amazing Race," "Undercover Boss," "Survivor," "60 Minutes" and "48 Hours" for the 2013-14 TV season.

Comedy Central is expanding its "Key & Peele" commitment with a 22-episode fourth season and a deal to develop an animated spinoff featuring the Vandaveon and Mike characters.

Fox has canceled comedy series "Raising Hope" after four seasons with the show's one-hour series finale slated to air 9 p.m. April 4.

But Fox renewed low-rated comedies "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and "The Mindy Project" along with "New Girl" and "The Following" for the 2014-15 TV season.

TBS renewed sitcom "Ground Floor" for a 10-episode second season to air later this year.

FX renewed animated comedy "Archer" for two more seasons -- 13 episodes each -- keeping the show on the air through at least 2016.

Channel surfing

Actor Tyler Blackburn, who left ABC Family's "Pretty Little Liars" to headline its now-canceled spinoff, "Ravenswood," will return to "PLL" for its fifth season, debuting June 10. ... Hallmark Movie Channel will be renamed Hallmark Movies & Mysteries late in 2014. ... The second-season finale of Destination America's "Monsters & Mysteries in America" (10 tonight) features a story about a bigfoot of alien origins on Presque Isle in Erie in 1966. ... Westmoreland City native "Wild" Bill Wichrowski will again be featured on the 10th season of Discovery's "Deadliest Catch," premiering 9 p.m. April 22. ... CBS News reporter Bill Whitaker has been named a correspondent for CBS's "60 Minutes." ... The big-screen movie based on the "Veronica Mars" TV series opens today at AMC-Loews at the Waterfront; it was not made available for review by critics in Pittsburgh. ... ABC's "Resurrection" drew an impressive 10.4 million viewers Sunday while Fox's "Cosmos" was watched by 8.5 million viewers across multiple networks. ... On Monday with the help of "The Voice" lead-in, NBC's "Believe" did even better, drawing 10.7 million viewers. ... Variety.com reports Amazon will order four pilots to series, including cop drama "Bosch," aftermath drama "The After" from Chris Carter ("The X-Files"), dramedy "Mozart in the Jungle," set behind the scenes at a symphony, and dark family comedy "Transparent."

Tuned In online

Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "White Collar," "Intelligence" and "Royal Pains." This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Those Who Kill," "From Dusk Till Dawn," "Billy on the Street" and "Salem." Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.

This week's podcast includes conversation about "Cosmos," "Resurrection" and "Believe." Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.

TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.

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