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Comedy? Drama? `Standoff'

TELEVISION REVIEWS

Fox's hostage negotiator series is billed as a romantic comedy. Its start isn't convincing.

September 05, 2006|Paul Brownfield | Times Staff Writer

The bus stop ads for the Fox series "Standoff" assert that it's a romantic comedy, costars Ron Livingston and Rosemarie DeWitt flirting back-to-back. The pilot episode begins with a distraught TV personality in his car, with his kids and a loaded gun, and crescendos with a congressman's son doing the Al Qaeda two-step, explosives strapped to his chest.

It's foreplay for Matt Flannery (Livingston) and Emily Lehman (DeWitt), FBI hostage negotiators soothing the ruined souls of madmen by day and their own loins by night.

Their loins, of course, are not nearly so ruined. This is I guess like that other Fox series, "Bones," only with hostages, and featuring lovers who will, in fact, negotiate with terrorists. Livingston was pitch-perfect as a disaffected computer drone finding his inner Him in the Mike Judge comedy "Office Space," but that was years ago, and I haven't seen him do anything since that was even half as satisfying, including that turn as Carrie Bradshaw's boyfriend Berger on "Sex and the City."

Maybe he's just a classic tweener -- between the abilities he has and the material he gets. The standoffs, meanwhile, at least the first two, are less than exhilarating thrill rides, beyond shots establishing that there are indeed snipers poised to take the guy out. Though Emily, particularly, with her psych background, has more faith in the negotiator-to-hostage-taker dyad. In the whiz-bang cold open, Matt uses a little reverse psychology to get the distraught TV personality to give up the fight, but he also broadcasts the fact that he's sleeping with his partner. Oops. The gambit saves the day but ends up causing a tiff with Emily. They go from standoffs to standoffish.

*

'Standoff'

Where: Fox

When: 9 to 10 tonight

Rating: TV-14 DVL (may be unsuitable for young children under the age of 14, with advisories for coarse language, suggestive dialogue and violence)

*

paul.brownfield@latimes.com

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