NBC has a good new drama: How many times have you read those words anywhere over the last year? Even though "The Blacklist" was certainly good, and "Hannibal" has emerged as the real deal, and -- hey! -- a lot of people even liked the launch of "Believe" last Sunday (myself included), the network has been scratching to get back in the elite drama game, with mixed results.
But Sunday has a good newbie, "Crisis," thanks in some measure to Dermot Mulroney, who is a fine actor and seems to have a reasonably sound honing signal for quality product, mostly in the movies.
He is also -- true fact -- is the world's finest cello-playing actor.
My "Crisis" review:
"Crisis," Sunday, 10 p.m.
What it's about: The student body of Washington, D.C.'s Ballard High is off on a field trip, but this is no ordinary high school and this will be no ordinary trip. These students are the spawn of the rich and powerful -- of presidents, ambassadors, industry captains. Someone wants something from their parents, but who -- and why? Meg Fitch (Gillian Anderson), says goodbye to her precious darling, but one of the dads, Thomas Gibson (Dermot Mulroney) goes along as chaperon. Then things get ugly fast as masked gunmen take the bus. Secret service agent Marcus Finley (Lance Gross) is about to have an interesting day and so is FBI agent Susie Dunn (Rachael Taylor). Showrunner Rand Ravich says, “This season has a hard stop. We will find the characters at a place where they think they’ve reached some sort of stability, and then we’ll just blow that up.”
My say: "Crisis" is laced with so many recognizable strands from the heist, conspiracy and techno-thriller genres that'll you'll find yourself wishing that Batman was around to unravel them all. But get past that disappointment -- Batman will not be coming to the rescue this time, friends -- and you'll at least begin to admire the way they're so skillfully woven together here.
The emotional stakes are laid out nicely -- kids are always good for that, even if these ones tend to be entitled brats. Flashbacks arrive late in Sunday's opener to give emotional resonance to the perpetrator; heists work well only if you empathize on some level with the perp. Tricks, reverses and various now-you-see-it-now-you-don't elements are also deployed to fool both protagonists and YOU.
If anything, "Crisis" is perhaps loaded too heavily in their favor, making this newcomer as much a clever board game as TV thriller. They can be briefly distracting, sending you off on a mental scavenger hunt to figure out where you've seen them before. (Wasn't that in CBS' "Hostages," or Fox's "24?")
No matter: "Crisis" ultimately gets its priorities straight by giving viewers a reason to care -- about the characters, outcome and mystery. That's pretty much all anyone can ask of a new show in a crowded TV landscape, and "Crisis" delivers.
Bottom line: Smart new techno-thriller led by the always good Dermot Mulroney.