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TV Series Review

When it comes to TV, Fox knows formula. And for the fall season, that cookie-cutter approach is on full display in crass sitcoms ('Til Death, Happy Hour), crude cartoons (American Dad, Family Guy) and gritty serial dramas (Prison Break, Vanished). Add to that list the network's elite-special-crime-task force garble, Standoff.

FBI crisis negotiators Matt Flannery (Office Space's Ron Livingston) and Emily Lehman (Rosemarie DeWitt) are partners in more ways than one, and their cat-and-mouse romance is an agency no-no. To make matters worse, Matt outs their bedroom trysts as part of an on-the-job tactic with a kidnapper while their no-nonsense boss listens in. The cocky smooth-talker isn't worried, however, as he explains to Emily that their supervisor "doesn't care what we say, as long as we get the job done and save the day and nobody files a lawsuit."

He's right. The pair essentially gets a pass based on job performance. After all, what would a Fox show be without a little sex on the side? The lovers/colleagues have already appeared tangled in the sheets a few times, with additional jokes about lesbian experimentation and past sexual relationships added for spice. Other partially nude characters (including a Bonnie and Clyde duo) have steamed up scenes as well.

So far, the show's main hook has been a blend of Moonlighting-esque dramedy and the sheer intensity of hostage situations. In one episode, an air traffic controller blamed for a mid-air crash holds his LAX co-workers at gunpoint. Another finds a congressman's son threatening to blow himself up in a crowded coffee shop. Unfortunately, producers routinely up the stress factor with language and violence.

Such tense situations showcase the quick thinking of crisis response pros responsible for hundreds, sometimes thousands of lives—all while the clock is ticking. In that regard, Standoff demonstrates admirable, selfless acts, such as when an agent throws himself on a young girl to shield her from an explosion. In addition to heroically putting their lives on the line to save others, Matt and Emily are relentless in their attempts to solve conflict sans firepower—even with a team of trigger-happy snipers waiting for an open shot. But despite some good intentions, these characters—and their network—are prone to wander into dicey territory.

Episodes Reviewed: Sept. 5, 12, 19, 26, 2006

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Marcus Yoars

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