Fifth-episode verdict: Standoff

4 A Major CarusoThe people have spoken. Three episodes isn’t always enough, it seems, so today, I inaugurate the first of my fifth-episode verdicts. I’m not sure there are going to be any hard and fast rules about what gets a fifth-episode look-in, although if I can’t make up my mind by a show’s third episode, it’ll almost certainly get one.

So here goes with number one: Standoff, a show that BSkyB’s customer magazine has already declared a “ratings smash hit”, despite all evidence to the contrary. Maybe it’s because it’s coming to Sky One this month, but can they see something I can’t? My third-episode verdict came down on the side of “average”; the show’s already had an unofficial hiatus while the producers waited for scripts to be completed and new consulting producer Tim Minear came on board; and Minear has just had his own pilot, Drive, picked up, with Fox saying he’ll stay with Standoff until its 13-episode run finishes. That’s quite an achievement for Minear: normally his shows have to be broadcast before they get cancelled, but that’s expensive and if he can cut costs by getting shows cancelled before they air, good on him.

So I’ve now sat through the first five episodes of Standoff, and I have to say, it gets even more average by the fifth episode. Utterly, utterly formulaic, utterly, utterly unbelievable. Sorry to spoil any potential viewers, but by episode five, we have Livingston going all jelly-like because he’s having to negotiate with someone who’s taken a surgeon hostage – and he hates hospitals because his mother died in one. They put this man in stress situations? The other facet of the show, the illicit relationship between Livingston and his partner, appears to have been put into suspended animation and is now there purely to allow his partner to be nurturing and for otherwise rubbish bits of dialogue to have slightly more meaning (“You just do your job,” says Livingston. Ooh. There’ll be hell to pay later.)

Standoff has now moved down officially from average to an even lower rating. As you may have noticed, I’ve chosen this moment to inaugurate a new ratings system as well: “The Carusometer”. This goes from

0 Anti Caruso: a programme so good that if it were placed in the same room as David Caruso, the two would annihilate each other, leaving behind just the faintest sound of a sigh of pleasure. An example is The Wire.


5 Full Caruso: a programme so bad that every single aspect of it seems to have been put together by David Caruso. An example is Angela’s Eyes.

The Medium is Not Enough has declared Standoff to be a 4 or “Major Caruso” on The Carusometer quality scale. A Major Caruso corresponds to “a show that David Caruso might exec produce or star in, or maybe write during a lunch break, perched at a strange angle on the side of a boat”.


  • Rob Buckley

    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.

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