The same goes for "The Nine." In a fall season full of lofty recommendations and solid, well-made pilots, it's the only series truly worth getting excited about. And it's certainly the only one this critic intends to watch closely.
Rarely is it prudent to come to such a conclusion based on one hour of television, but that's how taut the pilot is. This drama looks like the new great television addiction.
Yes, that means it's a serial -- as if we need another one of those. Only this is a serial that deals with how trauma can reshape your life, a concept bound to resonate with millions. Most people have a tale of being blindsided on a sunny day, violently or otherwise. Of course, few will ever have to live through such a level of extreme terror.
Before their ordeal, these nine people were strangers waiting for a bank teller. Nick Cavanaugh (Tim Daly), a handsome cop, went in to flirt with bank employee Eva Rios (Lourdes Benedicto), whose sister Franny (Camille Guaty) got her the job.
Bank manager Malcolm Jones (Chi McBride) received a surprise visit from his daughter, Felicia (Dana Davis), after a strange conversation about a loan with a weirdo named Egan Foote (John Billingsley). Kathryn Hale (Kim Raver), an assistant district attorney; Jeremy Kates (Scott Wolf), a successful surgeon; his girlfriend, Lizzie Miller (Jessica Collins), were all having typical days.
That ended when Lucas Dalton (Owain Yeoman) walked in with his tweaky brother, hoping to hit the place and run. But what should have been over in five minutes stretched out to 52 torturous hours.
Cut to the SWAT team entering the place -- it looks as if it's torn apart by guerrilla warfare. Everyone's bloody, screaming and cowering, and Cavanaugh makes it clear that someone on the outside screwed up on a massive scale.
That's all we know, other than how drastically the event has changed these people. The once suicidal Egan emerges with a sense that life has granted him a second chance. Others take a turn for the worse -- and one blocks it out entirely. But they all bond, and as bits and pieces of what happened over those 52 hours are revealed, we'll find out what is keeping them together.
The combined charisma of Daly, McBride, Raver and Wolf is undeniable, but doesn't overshadow the rest of this excellent ensemble. Billingsley, though, looks like a viewer favorite.
If nothing else, "The Nine's" premiere should be considered a textbook example of how to effectively introduce a rich and potentially complex drama in short order, a feat few pilots manage to pull off. Watch it for that reason alone. See if you can't help coming back for more.