"Don't Call the Police" warns the note at the outset of "Kidnapped," after a shootout straight out of "Man on Fire" in which a teenage boy is snatched and his bodyguard left wounded. Dour and dark, this isn't even the only serialized missing-person show of the season, and Fox's disappointing "Vanished" enjoyed a headstart.

“Don’t Call the Police” warns the note at the outset of “Kidnapped,” after a shootout straight out of “Man on Fire” in which a teenage boy is snatched and his bodyguard left wounded. Dour and dark, this isn’t even the only serialized missing-person show of the season, and Fox’s disappointing “Vanished” enjoyed a headstart. Still, a high-octane cast brings some promise to the show, even if inspiring an audience to find it figures to be a long shot vs. “CSI: NY” and ABC’s more tantalizing “The Nine.”

The Cains (Timothy Hutton, Dana Delaney) don’t call the police, but instead bring in a specialist who proves during the opening sequence he’s a badass when it comes to recovering hostages. The shadowy Knapp (Jeremy Sisto) counsels the parents against contacting the FBI, because they want to catch the perps, and “All I care about is retrieval.”

Nothing is tidy, however, in this latest scheme, from a soon-to-be-retired FBI agent (Delroy Lindo) picking up the scent when his buddy the bodyguard (Mykelti Williamson) turns up missing to the kidnappers promptly eliminating everyone associated with initial operation. At this rate, “Kidnapped” is going to have one helluva body count just to save one barely pubescent boy.

Knapp has a beautiful and equally mysterious sidekick (Carmen Ejogo), and there’s obviously something big behind the kidnapping plot — or writer Jason Smilovic’s outline wouldn’t have gone much past episode three.

No one is going to win any points for originality here, including a money-drop sequence cobbled together from every kidnapping scenario ever filmed. Initially, though, the fine performers, keyed by Lindo and Delaney, coupled with Michael Dinner’s taut direction, at least keep matters moving, and the Cains’ family secrets could be intriguing, with the disclaimer that they had better get there fast.

As for Sisto, the terse, unshaven thing is a little tired, but he does crack a smile during the second hour, in which more of the Cain clan is drawn into the plot, a hand-delivered body part (ick) arrives and clues may connect Cain pere to somebody in Zurich. There’s even a creepy jailhouse call (featuring “Rent’s” Anthony Rapp) from Knapp’s past.

Not bad, but NBC rolled the dice by displacing “Law & Order” to give “Kidnapped” a midweek slot, so expectations are high. With the show’s questionable lead-in, unrelenting grimness and high-powered competition, the network will need some major breaks to see this caper plot (Remember “Heist?” Didn’t think so.) through to its conclusion.

The bottom line is that such series can’t just be well-made, they have to be addictive. And the odds against that are kind of like the chances of finding one scared kid in the middle of New York City.

Kidnapped

NBC, Wed. Sept. 20, 10 p.m.

Production

Filmed in New York by 25C Prods., Rooney McP Prods. and Eighty D in association with Sony Pictures Television. Executive producers, Jason Smilovic, David Greenwalt, Michael Dinner, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly; co-executive producer, Ken Topolsky; director, Dinner; writer, Smilovic.

Crew

Camera, Ed Pei; editor, Victor Dubois; music, W.G. Snuffy Walden; production designer, Timothy Galvin; casting, Bonnie Finnegan, Mark Scott. Running time: 60 MIN.

Cast

Knapp - Jeremy Sisto Turner - Carmen Ejogo Latimer King - Delroy Lindo Andy Archer - Linus Roache Leopold - Will Denton Conrad Cain - Timothy Hutton Virgil - Mykelti Williamson Ellie Cain - Dana Delaney
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