Dylan McDermott and Toni Collette
Simplicity can be a helpful thing for an effective thriller — and that, sadly, is an attribute CBS's overwrought, underwatched Hostages (Monday, 10/9c) lacks altogether. The more complications this show introduces, the sillier it threatens to become. It's hard to imagine a subplot of less interest than the money problems of foxy hostage-taker Sandrine (Sandrine Holt) — and this week's scheme to hijack a high-rolling poker game to help her out, leaving the captive Sanders family in the lurch for a bit, is so preposterously tangential it's all you can do to control the eye roll. And that's nothing compared to the dilemma Dr. Ellen (Toni Collette) finds herself in when her wacky sister Lauren (Nina Arianda) drops by for an impromptu stay, making herself at home while Good/Bad FBI Guy Duncan (Dylan McDermott) goes into his usual glower and everyone scrambles to maintain a normal façade. By the time that story plays out, two words come to mind: Gladys Kravitz. (Bewitched fans will know what I'm talking about.)
There's a happier occurrence on CBS's Mom (9:30/8:30c), and we're not talking about its recent full-season pickup. Justin Long returns as Christy's (Anna Faris) charming beau, and while she tries to take it slow, we're rooting for it not to implode too soon. Another welcome recurring character: Marjorie (Mimi Kennedy), the AA regular who's no fan of Bonnie (Allison Janney), and vice versa.
One show that knows how to do cliffhangers right is NBC's The Blacklist (10:01/9:01c), which ended last week with Liz's husband Tom confronting her with the damning box she found in the pilot. Way to move that story along. He claims to be innocent. We'll see. And proving there's life after Revenge, Faux-Manda herself (Margarita Levieva) is this week's Blacklist target, an infamous corporate terrorist.
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MAD ABOUT MOVIES: Nowhere is the collision of art and commerce more pronounced than at the Cannes Film Festival, and HBO's tantalizing quasi-mock-documentary Seduced and Abandoned (9/8c) gives us a ringside seat, courtesy of Alec Baldwin — a Cannes newbie, incredibly — and director pal James Toback, who celebrate the history and glamorous hysteria of this venerated event while purporting to pitch a passion project to investors: an unlikely political sex drama they call "Last Tango in Tikrit." They take meetings with international financiers (some shadier than others) and even some A-list actors (Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain, The Artist's Berenice Bejo), while debriefing some legendary players about the process, including Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski and Bernardo Bertolucci, to name-drop a few. It's all pretty seductive, all right.
REALITY CHECK: Time for the "knockout" rounds on NBC's The Voice (8/7c), as the coaches pit two of his or her team's singers against each other, but not telling them who they're going up against until just before they go on. These are the toughest cuts, because the singer left standing will get to move on to next week's live shows (at which point The Voice becomes mostly indistinguishable from the other singing shows). ... The eight teams left on ABC's Dancing With the Stars (8/7c) will dance twice — first in a style they haven't yet tried, then in team routines involving solos. Seriously, who knew Snooki had it in her?
AFTER HOURS: Two decades ago, it was all "Conan Who?" when Conan O'Brien took over the Late Night gig from David Letterman. Now a cable fixture on TBS, Conan (11/10c) celebrates the host's 20 years of madcap antics with fan-selected favorite clips from his 3,300-plus hours on the air. ... As executive producer, Conan pays it forward by giving a relatively obscure comic his own late-night platform in The Pete Holmes Show (midnight/11c), starring a stand-up/writer/podcaster/voice actor perhaps best known as the voice of the E*Trade baby. On opening night, good sport Jon Stewart wishes Holmes well from New York, and the first guest from Holmes' new Warner Bros. soundstage home in Burbank is comedian Kumail Nanjiani.
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