'The Nine' With Billingsley Receives Mixed Marks

By Michelle
October 4, 2006 - 6:16 PM

John Billingsley (Phlox)'s The Nine is either as close to a perfect television show as any new series on television or an "agonizing" viewing experience, depending on which critic one reads. The new series, which premieres on ABC at 10 p.m. tonight following Lost, has garnered a wide range of critical opinion from raves to intense dislike.

  • "What makes The Nine so enthralling is also what could make it, in the long run, really frustrating," notes Los Angeles Daily News writer David Kronke. "The series jumps back and forth in time, from just before the nine characters of the title are brought together in a bank, to the aftermath 52 hours later when a hostage situation brought on by a botched bank heist...comes to a violent conclusion." The characters come across strongly in the pilot, he adds, but "the idea that it could take all season for viewers to discover everything the characters already know could get annoying pretty quickly."

  • The New York Times critic Alessandra Stanley declares that the new series is "worth watching, even more than once", describing the show as "a little like old World War II movies where a platoon served as a crucible for an idealized cross-section of America" beneath a "sleek veneer of artsy cinematography." She finds the series more adult than many new offerings on television and praises the diverse characters.

  • "The pilot of ABC's 'The Nine' is as close to a perfect 10 as any series this season," raves The Buffalo News's Alan Pergament. "Beautifully filmed, exquisitely cast, it has a compelling premise that supplies warmth, mystery and romance in a cold-hearted world...it helps that it is easy to root for all the characters, even those who aren't proud of their behavior."

  • By contrast, The Washington Post's Tom Shales calls The Nine "basically an overwrought episode of 'The Twilight Zone' stretched into series length" and has particularly harsh words for the former Enterprise actor: "A nerdy fussbudget named Egan Foote, played by John Billingsley, is so aggressively abrasive and gabby that he becomes more prominent in the story than he ought to be - annoying to such a degree that I wrote 'Foote, Foote, Foote, Foote!' in my notes." Shales says that the series is "not so much a narrative as a collection of character studies" and finds the jumping about in time to be quite unpleasant.

  • Charlie McCollum of The San Jose Mercury News labels The Nine "ABC's riveting new drama" and finds it compelling, in opposition to Shales, that viewers at home don't know what happened inside the bank. "The way these characters interact and relate in the first hour is dazzling and involving without being self-consciously clever," he writes. "These are very real people caught up in a traumatic event and you believe almost every one of their reactions to what takes place."

  • "The Nine has strong potential," according to Aaron Barnhart of The Kansas City Star, who describes the show as "part soap opera, part crime drama, part Lost wannabe." There are "some great TV actors" in the series, he adds. "This show suddenly is looking like a winner."

  • Somewhat less certain is Mike McDaniel of The Houston Chronicle, who rated the show a B+. "The concept is sound, but will the story merit our weekly devotion? If future episodes are as good as the pilot, yes," he claims.

  • And USA Today's Robert Bianco calls the series "the best new show of the year" and praises its "satisfying, intriguingly complex" storyline. "Through excellently written and performed small exchanges, the show instantly hooks us into [its] characters. And in clever ways, the show plays off our hopes that we would behave well in a similar situation."

More information about The Nine is available from ABC. The Futon Critic has development information and links.

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