All things considered, this has been an impressive season. The new shows have proved, by and large, to be a diverse, smartly written and highly original crowd. With virtually no new reality shows, sitcoms or game shows on the schedule, fall 2006 may have to go down on record as one of the best in recent years.
Among the shows that have been bouncing off critics’ “must see” lists is ABC’s “The Nine.” The show debuted last Wednesday after the season premiere of “Lost.” “Lost” topped out the night at no.1, drawing 18.8 million viewers (the show’s biggest numbers since January). “The Nine” lost about 7 million viewers from its lead-in, but still landed the network its biggest numbers in the timeslot since last September. Hopefully, as the season progresses, more viewers will stick with this out-of-the-ordinary show.
Though “The Nine” doesn’t boast the genre-twisting sci-fi-ish elements of “Lost,” it has quite a bit more in common with that hit series than you’d think by glancing at the surface. “The Nine” is an ensemble drama about nine people who emerge not entirely unscathed from a bank robbery gone horribly wrong. The robbery itself is skipped over and referred to only in flashback. As viewers, we don’t know exactly what happened inside the bank, but we do know it was bad, having devolved into a 52-hour hostage standoff resulting in at least one death.
In the first episode, we have just enough time to get introduced to our nine main characters. So far, the standouts seem to be a sexy D.A. (Kim Raver, “Third Watch”) having an affair with her boss, a suicidal schlub (John Billingsley, “Star Trek: Enterprise”) suddenly branded a media hero and a gambling-addicted police detective (Tim Daly, “Wings”) who’s a wee bit mad about how his department’s hostage negotiator handled things outside the bank.
Like “Lost,” it seems like much of “The Nine” will be spent getting to know our characters, learning who they were before the bank robbery and how they are different afterward. By keeping much of the details of what went on inside the bank hidden, it looks like the producers are trying to set up some sort of mystery, which may be turning mystery-fatigued viewers off. I don’t actually think that’s the case. Obviously, the show will let us know bits and pieces of what happened inside the bank each week, but I don’t think it involves any major conspiracy. It’s conceivable that one of the nine might have been in on the robbery, and it’s entirely possible that one or more of them might be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. But, for the most part, I believe the flashbacks will serve to show us slivers of what these post-traumatic stressed characters are dealing with.
With its mature scriptwriting and cast of welcome faces (Chi McBride from “Boston Public” and Scott Wolf from “Party of Five” are also in there), “The Nine” is gripping from the get-go. A welcome alternative to the squabbling teens and self-important forensic examiners who populate most TV dramas.