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Pilot Inspektor: NBC's "Kidnapped"

One of these days I really wish that a network would actually develop and program a series that is intended to only last a single season. Sort of like what Prison Break was supposed to be originally. (For a better example, take a look at the BBC's compelling and brilliant political mystery-drama State of Play.) In doing so, a network might actually make the audience think that anything could happen, anyone could be killed or eliminated at any time. The dramatic stakes are raised because, in watching, we know that there is going to be a finality to the end.

On the surface, NBC's new serialized drama Kidnapped might appear to fall into this category, but there's also a rather dynamic character played by Six Feet Under's Jeremy Sisto who might be able to launch the series into a multi-year franchise a la Jack Bauer on FOX's 24. Sisto plays the enigmatic Knapp, a kidnapping and ransom expert whose very purpose for being is to return victims to their loved ones. He doesn't care about money or arresting the perps. His fee is non-negotiable, and only paid when he returns the victim intact. He's a knight in shining... dirty hooded sweatshirts.

It's Knapp's skills as a K&R expert that bring him into the orbit of the Cains, a powerful and well-to-do New York family. Pater familias Conrad Cain (Timothy Hutton) is a businessman who might have made a few enemies during his company's hostile takeover of a few years earlier. His wife, Ellie (Dana Delany), has that paradox of fragility and strength that one finds in wealthy women in her position, and Delany plays her with an icy vulnerability that has become her trademark (see Wild Palms and Pasadena). The Cains are the sort of rich folks who live in a palatial manse overlooking Central Park, have a daughter at Brown, and whose children speak French in hushed tones.

The Cains also employ a bodyguard. Virgil (Mykelti Williamson) is assigned to protect the Cain's 15-year- old son Leopold (Will Denton) and he watches over Leopold like a hawk (but why just Leopold?). This guy is a serious professional, either ex-FBI or military. He's tough. And when Leopold is seized during a daring early morning kidnapping from the daylit, public streets of Manhattan, Virgil whips out an automatic weapon and lays down a strafing attack on the kidnappers, before he's shot by a sniper. Is he dead? Or just wounded? We don't know, because he seems to disappear into thin air... as does Leopold Cain.

The Cains quickly attach the services of Knapp, who has a reputation for working outside the "rules" of law enforcement agencies. He gets results and, even more importantly for the Cains, he's the very soul of discretion. Knapp works with an associate, his right hand man (or woman, rather), the beautiful Turner. (Together they form the sexiest professional kidnapping and ransom experts this side of Proof of Life.) Knapp tells the Cains to follow the kidnappers' advice and not contact the police or the FBI. He and Turner quickly take control of the situation and begin hunting for clues. But the mastermind behind the kidnappers (or so it seems for right now, anyway) is tying up loose ends of his own, eliminating anyone with any knowledge of the kidnap by sending an assassin, The Accountant (James Urbaniak) to silence them. (Hmmm, shades of Hal Hartley's Amateur here.)

But Virgil's disappearance causes a problem for the Cains. Virgil's wife (Audra MacDonald) goes looking for him and seeks out the help of an old friend of Virgil's: Special Agent Latimer King (Delroy Lindo), an FBI agent who is preparing to retire at the end of the week. (Uh-oh, it's Lethal Weapon Syndrome; don't ever tell anyone that you're retiring from law enforcement--it always means that you get sucked into another case or you'll end up dead.) Her arrival puts King on Virgil's trail, a course which leads him directly to Conrad Cain, whose nervousness accidentally tips King off to Leopold's kidnapping. To Knapp's annoyance (he knows King all too well), the FBI become involved in the case and quickly manage to bollocks the whole thing up straightaway, when a SWAT team falls right into the kidnappers' trap.

But the Cains aren't telling Knapp or the FBI everything. Conrad is vague about any enemies he might have and alludes to some threads he had received, but why is Leopold selected when he's the only Cain child with a bodyguard? Ellie has contacts in the Secret Service and her father is some powerful muckety-muck, but Conrad won't allow her to involve him either. Leopold's kidnapping is brutal, swift, and organized, in a ruthlessly efficient way. These men behind the attack are motivated by greed; they want $20 million and if they get what they want, they claim they'll release Leopold. But there's obviously more to this scenario than meets the eye, something personal, a vendetta of some kind that will force everyone's secrets out into the light before this is over. Why Leopold? And where is Virgil? And better yet, where is the Cain's "missing" daughter Aubrey? How do all of these elements come together?

Kidnapped's sprawling cast is top-notch, better than would be expected for a TV drama. Jeremy Sisto is a dynamic lead and his character, Knapp, is mysterious enough to be engaging while still fundamentally human (read: flawed) to provide a compelling three-dimensional character. Other standouts include Dana Delany, Delroy Lindo, and Carmen Ejogo, who plays Knapp's beautiful English associate Turner. And while it's wonderful to see English actor Linus Roache (here playing the oily and dunderheaded FBI Agent Andy Archer), he needs to spend some more time working on his American accent with his dialect coach, stat.

Writing (from Jason Smilovic) and direction are of a high quality, though I found that director Michael Dinner relied too heavily on stylistic visual trickery early on in the pilot, which distracted rather than intrigued. The addition of David Greenwalt (Angel) as Kidnapped's showrunner makes me particularly curious (in a good way) about the direction the story will take over the course of the season.

Ultimately, I found Kidnapped's pilot to be entertaining, albeit a little predictable thus far, and the pilot smacked of set-up for the series. I'd have to see (and would be willing to watch) the series' second episode before being able to make a fully formed judgment about whether I'd watch the show on a regular basis. But I am definitely intrigued and relieved that the pilot showed more promise than just being Ransom: The Series.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: NCIS (CBS); Will & Grace/Will & Grace (NBC); Gilmore Girls (WB); Celebrity Debut(ABC); American Idol (FOX); America's Next Top Model (UPN)

9 pm: The Unit (CBS); Scrubs/Scrubs (NBC); Pepper Dennis (WB); Boston Legal (ABC; 9-11 pm); House (FOX); Veronica Mars (UPN)

10 pm: The Unit (CBS); Law & Order: SVU (NBC)

What I'll Be Watching

9-10 pm: Scrubs.

Two brand-new back-to-back episodes of one of the greatest comedies on television (the next season of which NBC--the bastards!--are holding until midseason). On the first episode tonight of Scrubs ("My Urologist") J.D. challenges an assessment from Dr. Briggs, a patient of his who happens to be a urologist (guest star Elizabeth Banks), while Elliot considers breaking up with Keith, whom she thinks is too weak. On tonight's second episode ("My Transition"), J.D. attempts to plan the perfect date with Dr. Briggs (Banks, again), but Elliot keeps getting in the way. Good times.

9 pm: Veronica Mars.

If you missed the mystery-drama's simply brilliant second season, here's your chance as UPN is reairing Veronica Mars' second season premiere ("Normal is the Watchword"), in which Veronica is forced back into the investigation business when her BFF, Neptune High basketball player Wallace, tests positive for drugs.

If they decide to play nice, UPN might just reair the entire second season, so go and buy the Season One DVD and catch up on Season Two, before the show (hopefully!) jumps over to the CW network this fall.


Anonymous said…
re: Kidnapped - very well said. Especially good - quesitoning why they kidnapped the only child w/a bodyguard.
Anonymous said…
i was wondering what the theme song was for kidnapped. any help would be appreciated
My brother actually played a tiny part in the pilot episode, he played one of the FBI agents on the roof with the senior FBI agent(this was right before he messed up and ordered in the swat team). My brother had originaly had a speaking part, but that part was cut, it just shows his face for a second, and then it shows him walking with the other two agents briefly.

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