Review: Standoff


In the US: Tuesdays 9/8c, Fox

In the UK: Sky One from November

I’ve been busy this week, so I haven’t had time to review things as quickly as I’d have liked. Sorry. So we’re cramming a few reviews in today, starting with Standoff, which aired on Tuesday.

Not that there’s a load of good reasons to rush this one out, because despite the presence of the always wonderful Ron Livingston (Sex and the City, Office Space) and Gina Torres at the top of the cast list, this show is a bit of a dud.

Standoff, you see, has a double meaning. As well as being a drama about hostage negotiators, it’s also about negotiation within relationships. Oh, as they say, dear.

Matt Flannery (Livingston) and Emily Lehman (Rosemarie DeWitt) are top hostage negotiators for some police force somewhere (does it really matter where?). But as we find out when Flannery bellows it out to a TV star gone postal, he and Lehman are having a strictly verboten relationship.

The generally low standard of writing continues. Flannery, who apparently likes to confess his darkest secrets to criminals in full view of everyone, simply because three hours on the phone is too much for him, then has to “negotiate” with his irate partner – and that’s partner in at least two senses of the word – over this unauthorised confession. So it’s give and take about who gets to be lead negotiator on the next case as penance.

Now far be it for me to be telling these nice TV writers what to do and what not to do, but there’s something intrinsically tasteless about equating hostage rescue with who does the washing up. They’re already on very thin ice with this first episode, in which an Islamic fundamentalist suicide bomber threatens to blow up a shop full of Nice People (and some Nice Muslims, those stock TV characters designed to legitimise crass portrayals of Islamic fundamentalists by having them mouth lines about Islam being a religion of peace. Great, now we can blow up a coffee shop without offending anyone!).

Of course, it turns out his mummy was just mean to him and all he needed was a little love. So not at all offensive or shallow then.

I keep trying to think of redeeming features for the show, but I can’t. No good dialogue. No good characters. The plot bears as much resemblance to reality as Ghostbusters does. The acting’s good, I guess, but when you have nothing to work with, what’s the point?

About on a par with Bones in the scheme of things, I’d say, so don’t bother with it. Cancellation alert, Will Robinson!


Matt Flannery (Ron Livingston)

Emily Lehman (Rosemarie DeWitt)

Frank Rogers (Michael Cudlitz)

Cheryl Carrera (Gina Torres)

Duff Gonzalez (Jose Pablo Cantillo)

Lia Mathers (Raquel Alessi)

Here’s the official site. Here’s a trailer for episode two. No spoilers, I don’t think.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.