Apparently, single-word titles are in. More than ever, the TV industry is finding that the likes of ``Lost , " ``House," ``Numb3rs," ``Smallville," and ``Bones" are easy names to remember and use in spreading word-of-mouth. This season, the roster expands to include ``Shark," ``Justice," ``Vanished," ``Jericho," ``Heroes," ``Smith," ``Standoff," ``Runaway," and, beginning tonight, ``Kidnapped."
And ``Kidnapped," which premieres at 10 p.m. on Channel 7, isn't much more imaginative than its title. There's no irony or obliqueness to this NBC series, which takes over the traditional ``Law & Order" time slot. It's just a straightforward drama about a kid who is lifted from a wealthy New York City family and the efforts to recover him. It recalls the Mel Gibson movie ``Ransom" (which also featured Delroy Lindo), except that as a serial crime show it will stretch the hunt across a TV season.
``Kidnapped" has a lot to recommend, even while it's not very original. The first two episodes are lushly filmed in a palatial New York apartment, and they're richly acted. As Conrad and Ellie Cain , the parents of the snatched kid, Timothy Hutton and Dana Delany quickly evoke the cool of socialites who refuse to let shock upset their carefully maintained impersonality. And as their son, Leopold, Will Denton is vivid as a Manhattan-bred prep schooler who amuses himself by reading Julian Jaynes' s ``The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind."
Jeremy Sisto shows potential in ``Kidnapped" to define himself beyond his role as the unstable Billy on ``Six Feet Under." He plays a rogue former FBI agent who arrives to help the Cains recover Leopold at all costs, and he carries a convincing sense of controlled anarchy about him. Despite Sisto's preference, the FBI noodles its way into the case, and he is forced to work alongside his former partner, played with a welcome strain of bemusement by Lindo. They make a great non-pair, as Lindo keeps coming to the same conclusions as Sisto, but always minutes later.
The case opens up to include subplots involving Leopold's hard-partying older sister and Conrad's fractured relationship with his father. But the true motive behind the abduction probably won't emerge until later in the season, and, as on two other popular serial dramas, ``24" and ``Prison Break," it will probably involve villains higher and higher up on the social, political, or financial hierarchy. You can sense how the flow of ``Kidnapped" will go, as surely as you might have predicted that the Irish bar in episode 2 would be playing Van Morrison and U2. It's a fine flow, but a familiar one nonetheless.
``Kidnapped" is better than Fox's similar ``Vanished," and more faceted than any given hour of ``Without a Trace"; but it will probably suffer from this season's abundance of high-maintenance dramas that require weekly viewing. It's good, but not quite inventive or mysterious enough to demand we swallow yet another serving of serial.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com.