Screen Savors: Taking viewers hostage

Egad, they're evil, these Hollywood producers, churning out series after series that keep us coming back for more.

nine 88 (photo credit: )
nine 88
(photo credit: )
Damn! They've done it to us again. Just when we thought we had safely avoided shows like 24 and Lost, which sucked viewers in with new wrinkles, side plots, weird time factors, back stories and swerves, along comes another one and drags us in! Egad, they're evil, these Hollywood producers, churning out series after series that keep us coming back for more, even though everything that's good and decent inside us screams: "STAY AWAY! THIS PROGRAM IS ADDICTING!!" This time it's The Nine, (Tuesdays, 22:45) a new series on Xtra HOT - which curiously enough also screens 24 and Lost - about a robbery at an LA bank and the hostage crisis that ensues. But the new wrinkle this time is that we don't KNOW what went on during the 52 hours the nine survivors of the ordeal were held inside the bank, nor do we know much about them. Are they who they claim to be? Is there a lot more to this bank robbery than meets the eye? And are the circumstances that brought them to the bank that afternoon really what we first understood from the series pilot? See? Gotcha thinking already. The truth of the matter is that the pilot fairly hummed along, although there were some hokey moments. Within minutes we met: Jeremy (Scott Wolf of Party of Five), a Jewish doctor, who has a relationship with Lizzie, a hospital social worker. Then there's Nick (Timothy Daly of Wings), a cop with a gambling and drinking problem who just happens to decide to deposit his pay check that afternoon. [CUE HEAVY DRUM BEAT as in "OH NO!"] Assistant district attorney Kathryn's in bed with one of her colleagues when her mom calls from the bank to say a family heirloom's missing from her safety deposit box. The dutiful daughter heads down to help, with both mother and daughter caught up in the robbery. Coolest and most mysterious of all is Egan Foote (veteran actor John Billingsley), a nerdish type who tells bank manager Malcolm he wants a loan for a boat, then goes to the bathroom where he stashes a gun he later claims he was going to use to commit suicide. Post-hostage situation, though, he's praised as a hero for what he did inside, and the event seems to have changed his life only for the better. Nick's got a thing for bank teller Eva, and she's taking his check when the bank robbers strike. But Eva dies in the hostage stalemate, so it's Franny her sister who's also part of The Nine, recovering from the trauma by tonsil-dancing with Jeremy at her sister's post-funeral celebration at her house, while Eva's little boy asks Nick "why didn't you save my mother?" And wouldn't you know if just moments before the robbery, bank manager Malcolm's teenage daughter Teresa comes in to ask to borrow the car, catching her in the same robbery as dad. Post-trauma, she claims she doesn't remember a thing, but as the pilot ends, there she is at the prison, settling down in a chair opposite one of the robbery suspects and saying: "Hi." SWERVE! US critics liked this show, and so did we, mostly, although some of the cliches bugged us, like the newspeople asking the hostages as they were released: "How did it feel?" Groan. And now lawyer Kathryn's got a thing for Nick, Lizzie doesn't even want to tell Jeremy she's pregnant - she was going to tell him THAT DAY but... - and everyone's getting all complicated. Ah, complicated - that's what we want. Each week, we relive another 10 minutes of the FIFTY-TWO HOUR event (talk about optimistic producers!), presumably explaining just why everyone's acting how they are afterwards, and whether they're really what they seemed to be when we first met them. Sounds a lot like Lost and 24, huh? With a bit of Denzel Washington's film The Inside Man thrown in. Despite the palpable tension, decent acting and quick pace, the show simply died in the ratings and was yanked after only a handful of episodes were shown, though we're likely to see the entire first season here. Sad, especially for a program that so clearly states the dangers of the ATM, with an overcrowded one to blame for Lizzie and Jeremy getting caught in the bank just as the robbery begins. We may be hooked on this show, but we've learned our lesson - from now on, everything goes under the balatot.