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Snap Judgment: 'The Nine'

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91028__nine_lThe Nine may have solved a TV pilot’s most irksome problem: clunky exposition. How? By making it impossible. Much like Lost, we meet these characters — and they meet each other — cold. The Losties crashed on a desert island. The nine survivors of this slightly more prosaic catastrophe are marooned right in the middle of civilization. Bound together by a traumatic 52-hour bank robbery-turned-hostage standoff, they find solace only in each other’s company, because only they know What Happened in There. And the less we know, the better.

The Nine is, in many ways, an inside-out Lost. It’s about the subtle filaments that interconnect human beings, but its web of synchronicity is utterly earthly, its mysteries not magical but psychological. I’m especially fond of John Billingsley’s Egan, the guy who walks into the bank a near-suicide and, two hellacious days later, walks out an unlikely hero. The writers clearly have him singled out for a John Locke-style tragedy-of-the-everyman arc (his ”hero” status has him basically reborn — and giddy, and reckless), and the idiosyncratic Billingsley (late of Prison Break and Enterprise) shows every sign of being able to break our hearts.

addCredit(“The Nine: Ron Tom/ABC”)

I’m flabbergasted at how little I know about the two days thehostages (including driven doctor Jeremy, played by Scott Wolf,pictured) spent inside the bank, especially contrasted with the levelof dread I feel. There are hints of conspiracy and paranoia (especiallysurrounding Tim Daly’s character, the cop-turned-hostage who feels thepolice negotiations were botched), and I hope they remain hints. Theconspiracy of fate that atomized these people’s lives is conspiracyenough.

Where can this go? Will we simply have the full story of thestandoff eked out over the course of the season? And… then what?Follow these people as they rebuild their lives, with the instigatingevent — and thus the urgency — receding ever farther from us? I haveno idea. It’s certainly a gamble, with all the liabilities of Lost (how long/how much can the writers credibly withhold?) and Prison Break(isn’t this more of a feature-film arc than a TV story?) combined. Thatsaid, I’m far more intrigued with this show, at this moment, than withany other pilot so far.

Just please, please, PLEASE lose the pop-music montages. The ongoingnetwork attachment to this distracting, emotionally distancingnarrative crutch must end NOW. Some dishes just shouldn’t be served augratin. Would I like cheese on my sushi? No, I would not.

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