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Stand by your man

By Clarissa Stark

Section: Arts

September 8, 2006

Ladies and gentleman, Ron Livingston has returned to the screen. The small screen. The very small screen. Much smaller than a cubicle but larger than your average TPS report (new cover sheets notwithstanding).
Within the first few moments of Standoffs premiere on Tuesday night, following the third season opener of the always-entertaining House, I felt like I was watching a strange, more FBI version of Peter Gibbons in his slightly more high-stress office space. Matt Flannery, Livingstons official” name on the show, is witty, a little outside the box and a guy who thinks he can basically get away with anything. For example – he shows up to work in the FBIs Crisis Negotiations center wearing a t-shirt and some flannel, and this is on a day that is a little less than ordinary. It's the day that he has to meet with the boss because he just spilled the beans that he and his partner have been sleeping together for three months, and canoodling with ones partner is, of course, an explicit inter-office no-no.
Why couldn't he have just kept his mouth shut? He had to do if for the greater good, as part of his tactic to talk down a man who was holding an entire intersection at gunpoint.
And this all happens within the first ten minutes of the show.
Matt's partner (in work and otherwise) is Emily Lehman, played by Rosemarie Dewitt, is a bit more typical the standard female FBI agent type, strong, independant, with a tough exterior that is difficult to crack, which, when breached, reveals a hidden softer side. She, of course, gets angry at Matt for telling everyone – their co-workers, their boss, the hostages, the guy with the gun, even the sniper team – about their affair over a loudspeaker. Yet, she doesnt stay mad long, which I appreciate, as the plot of girl is mad at guy gets old, fast. Whether they as a couple have good on-screen chemistry or if it's just that Livingston himself has it with everything, animate and inanimate, I havent decided yet, but either way it works so far for the show. Mark makes a good character to root for, and while their relationship is basically a clich of office romances, it plays out nicely. Emily is the one to save the day in the end and despite the fact that Mark made their status public, shes the one who proves that it can work in their somewhat atypical work environment.
And while the relationship is the focus of the show, which does make it a risk, theres plenty of opportunity for interesting plot lines in the exciting world of hostage negotiation (and who doesnt love that?). The show starts off with a story about a senators son who straps explosives onto himself all because of his unresolved oedipal complex toward his (and some emotional scarring from being a senators son and having to appear as part of the smiling, picture perfect family, which would screw any kid up). The lovely and always talented Gina Torres, from such cult-like addiction shows as Firefly, Angel, Alias and 24 makes for a smart, funny and kick-ass female boss who I already like better than Emily as a female lead.
But Im getting ahead of myself. Whether or not this show will make it is a bit of a toss-up. Solid storylines and a good timeslot that stands a good chance of picking up a lot of viewers who stay tuned after House gives it a fair chance although you never know when it comes to the decisions of television executives.
My advice: Give this one a chance, if only because Ron Livingston can do no wrong. His character has that smart, dry humor, and is just entertaining to watch to see what hell do next. Plus you can see him sporting some impressive firearms, which aint such a bad a deal.

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