PASADENA — Here we go again.
The new NBC drama "Crisis" is a complicated mystery about the kidnapping of a bus filled with students from a Washington, D.C., high school who have rich and powerful parents. It's another series that is asking viewers to commit to a story line with multiple twists and turns.
What makes "Crisis" different is that it has been written to wrap up if there are no more episodes past the initial 13. There will be a tiny sliver of plot that could be used to launch another block of episodes. But executive producers Rand Ravich and Far Shariat say viewers shouldn't be afraid to tune in as a big payoff is planned.
"Actually, we have the luxury that we are writing the last few right now. So we definitely have a hard ending," Ravich says. "We have a climactic, satisfying, both emotional and plot conclusion that leaves a small five percent seed for next year to go back into a world. But we do have an ending this year. We have an ending every episode. We have an ending this year as well."
Gillian Anderson plays Meg Fitch, the CEO of a multinational IT conglomerate who is the mother of one of the kidnapped teens. The investigation gets complicated when her estranged sister, played by Rachael Taylor, is one of the FBI agents on the case. Dermot Mulroney portrays one of the chaperones on the bus — but it soon becomes clear there is more to him than his wimpish facade.
Anderson likes the family elements that are mixed in the politics and pursuits.
"One of the great things about the show is that you have all the action and the thriller aspect of it, but there are lots of relationships that flow through the whole thing, whether it's siblings or parents, child or teacher or romantic relationships that have a very active and compelling emotional life at the same time, and this is one of them," Anderson says.
As soon as she started reading the script, Anderson knew she wanted to be part of the series. The clincher was when her teenage daughter read it and was equally enthralled.
The same elements that excited Anderson are why Taylor was ready to face another network drama despite her last two attempts — the remake of "Charlie's Angels" and the creepy "666 Park Avenue" — crashed and burned after only a few episodes. She also was attracted to the character, who must show strength when she is investigating the kidnapping but is in truth a fractured young woman.
Taylor met with a female FBI agent to get tips on all of the mechanics of the job. What she also learned was that it's not that unusual for an agent to be someone with family problems.
"What was interesting to me was just hearing her dogged determination and her focus, and also her explaining that for both genders of federal agents, once they get into that analytical way of thinking, they really never are off the job," Taylor says. "And hearing from her that it actually did, in some ways, and she managed to navigate it, take tolls on her personal life in different ways because of the adjustment that is required to your thinking when you have a job that is to serve and protect the country or the like."
Mulroney likes the family elements and all of the intrigue, but he particularly loves that his character is so complicated.
"This character is one of the most intriguing that I've ever played, to be honest with you. The thing that roots me as an actor in the character and roots the character into the story is the love of family," Mulroney says.
"All the other characters share that in one way or another, so, for me, that's something that each of the actors have in common, as well as the characters, so that you begin to piece together the depth of his motivation. He's doing it to bring his family back together and you will learn later he has even grander goals to accomplish."
If NBC has enough patience with the series to allow all 13 episodes to air, viewers will get to see those grand goals.
"Crisis": 10 p.m. Sunday, March 16, on NBC (KSEE, Channel 24.1)
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.