[07/04/06 - 12:00 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "Kidnapped" (NBC)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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With the official start of the 2006-07 season less than three months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month or so previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at one of the 39 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.

There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entry:

(Wednesdays at 10:00/9:00c this fall)

The network's description: ""Kidnapped" is a high-stakes, serialized thriller in which the teenaged son of a wealthy Upper East Side family is kidnapped and everyone is a suspect. The series focuses on the elaborate, triangulated game between the kidnappers, law enforcement, FBI, and the private negotiating team of the "perhaps" less-than-picture-perfect family. The ensemble cast includes Jeremy Sisto ("Six Feet Under"), Delroy Lindo ("The Core"), Emmy winner Dana Delany ("China Beach"), Timothy Hutton ("Kinsey"), Mykelti Williamson ("Boomtown"), Linus Roache ("Batman Begins"), Carmen Ejogo ("Lackawanna Blues"), Will Denton ("Palindromes") and Boris McGiver ("The Pink Panther")."

What did they leave out: Jeremy Sisto, Carmen Ejogo, Mykelti Williamson and Delroy Lindo's characters are billed "series regulars" while the rest of the cast is listed as "season one series regulars."

The plot in a nutshell: It's a typical day in the well-to-do Cain household. Conrad (Timothy Hutton) and Ellie (Dana Delany) are the quintessential Park Avenue couple, complete with lavish apartment overlooking Central Park and overachieving kids. A visiting reporter, there to profile the clan, gives us the lowdown on the family's background - Conrad's a self-made man who wound up marrying the boss's daughter and now runs their prestigious financial firm. It's a job that apparently comes with risks as they've hired a bodyguard Virgil (Mykelti Williamson) to escort their son Leopold (Will Denton, thankfully not saddled with the usual spoiled rich kid role) to and from school each day. This day however things are anything but typical as gunmen take Leopold, kill his driver, mortally wound Virgil and let the neighbor's kid go with a note that reads: "Don't call the police." At a loss of what to do, Conrad's associate (Ricky Jay) suggests they contact a man known only as Knapp (Jeremy Sisto), who has a reputation of dealing with these very situations. Knapp arrives with his similarly one-named associate Turner (Carmen Ejogo) and explains his somewhat unorthodox rule: either he finds their boy or they don't pay his fee. Meanwhile, Virgil's wife (Audra McDonald) has approached the F.B.I. about her husband's disappearance, more specifically his special forces buddy Latimer King (Delroy Lindo) who in a pair of "only on TV" coincidences is retiring that day (paging Danny Glover) and used to be Knapp's Senior Agent when he was at the F.B.I. From here things play out as you'd expect as King's boss Andy Archer (Linus Roache) wants to handle things his "by the book" way and Knapp wants to handle things his "not by the book" way with King trying to keep the peace between the two. It all leads to a tenuous showdown involving the ransom's delivery, which leaves several agents dead and sparks the season-long search for Leopold.

What works: This is exactly the show you'd expect from its premise as all the various character archetypes are spoken for - from the scruffy but noble specialist brought in to do what the law can't, to the strong but handwringing mom, to the dad with potential skeletons in his closet, to the bodyguard that won't rest until he finds his charge, to the veteran agent who won't let the job go, to the assholish suit who will screw up everything, etc. Said familiarity is the show's greatest strength as the producers set the table for a potentially solid series. Even better is that the cast, producers, director, etc. make it feel like a kidnapping movie expanded into a season-long TV show, whereas FOX's similarly-themed "Vanished" (which we'll get to shortly) feels like a procedural with the serialized elements tacked on. It's just a well-done show...

What doesn't: ...albeit not that original. As you can guess from the synopsis and the character breakdowns, you don't have to be Nostradamus to predict how things shake out - at least so far. This certainly isn't a watercooler show in the "24" or "Prison Break" sense, it's just a solidly capable one with a few seeds sown to potentially make it much more. The characters, while not especially deep, are well outlined and differentiated with the actors adding much more to what's "on the page." Overall, I have high hopes for this one even though I'm not dying to see the next episode.

The challenges ahead: Can a serialized drama take over "Law & Order's" Wednesday, 10:00/9:00c slot with "The Biggest Loser" as its lead-in? That's a huge hurdle ahead.

  [july 2006]  


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