“Ransom” premieres New Year’s Day in a primetime slot, but it moves immediately to Saturday nights. That sounds about right; the Canadian co-production is a “laundry folder” through and through.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it describes shows that don’t demand a viewer’s complete attention. For those staying home on a Saturday night paying bills or folding laundry, this generic thriller offers reasonably efficient if formulaic competence.
Luke Roberts stars as Eric Beaumont, the head of a private company that engages in crisis negotiations, many of them involving missing persons. As he and his employees explain to a couple in the first episode, when someone has been kidnapped, the police have two goals: Getting the hostage back and catching the criminals. Beaumont and his team only care about retrieving the person who’s been taken, and their services don’t come cheap.
As is the case with “Bull,” “Pure Genius” and Fox’s upcoming “APB,” “Ransom” is part of a wave of shows based on the premise that private contractors can do certain important jobs in law enforcement and medicine better than public servants, but that privatization subtext is by no means a major aspect of the drama. Nor are the characters the main draw; their backstories are generally rote and predictable, and the actors aren’t given a lot of meaty material to work with. Sarah Greene appeared to have a lot more fun playing a devilish character on Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful,” but she is serviceable here as Beaumont’s newest employee.
The focus of the show, at least in the first episode, is on the machinations of a kidnapping, and on that score, “Ransom” displays brisk energy. There are a few well-placed twists and turns, and even if “Ransom” is the kind of drama that depends, in a couple of instances, on a child being menaced in order to juice up the tension, it’s not a drama that goes to very dark places. CBS’ bread-and-butter is hourlong dramas in which bland but competent teams get the job done. In the pilot, “Ransom” hews to that template without offering much beyond it.
That said, for those looking for an acceptable cat-and-mouse thriller that doesn’t make too many demands on the psyche, “Ransom” should fill the bill well enough.