Kidnap and Ransom

A slick new hostage drama with some perturbing quirks.

Kidnap and Ransom ITV1

Lately, Trevor Eve seems to be in everything. I'm not saying that this is a bad thing. I could watch him all day; I find his basilisk stare mildly erotic. Still, it's weird the way casting directors seem to offer him pretty much every control-freak fiftysomething role that comes along. Eve is a fine actor, but, with the exception of playing Hughie Green in BBC4's 2008 biopic, for which he wore a wig and used a different voice, mostly he is made to do the same thing, over and over again.

I suppose it has something to do with comfort: we see Eve's name in the titles and feel immediately reassured that the schlock in
front of which we have flopped will, at least, be high-class schlock, be it Waking the Dead (cold cases solved) or Bouquet of Barbed Wire (naughty, incestuous feelings for one's daughter). That his perky, salt-and-pepper hair looks great against the backdrop of a minimalist kitchen is just a bonus.

In ITV's big, new and rather exciting drama Kidnap and Ransom (Thursdays, 9pm), Eve plays Dominic King - as names go, isn't this
as high-testosterone as they come? - who is an expert hostage negotiator and the kind of man of whom governments profess to disapprove. His hostages come from the corporate world and it is his job to strike a financial deal with their captors, procure the cash from their employers and hand it over at a location of the kidnappers' choosing.

Result? Everyone is happy - well, sort of - with the exception of the Foreign Office. Naturally, he is good at his job. On the other hand, he recently lost his first hostage, having handed over a sackful of loot for what turned out to be a dead body. This has made him strangely reckless: he is haunted by the botched job but also more determined than ever to show both his colleagues and the bad guys who call his mobile telephone in the dead of night who is boss.

Right now, moreover, he is in the middle of a right old mess. What should have been straightforward - the handover of a female botanist, Naomi Shaffer (Emma Fielding), in exchange for £100,000 - has gone badly wrong. Guns were fired out of nowhere, her original kidnappers were killed and Shaffer was driven off, who knows where, by a different gang. Shaffer works for a pharmaceutical giant, so my guess is that this is a tangled web indeed. Also - shock - the man waiting for her at home, we now learn, is her second husband. Perhaps her private life is involved, too. King, we know, will sort it out. At times, he will look like he is cracking up. But he will get there in the end.

Kidnap and Ransom is extremely slick. With its groovy title sequence and its dusty locations, it could be an American miniseries - another sign that ITV is again in the ascendant, thanks to its director of television, Peter Fincham. Still, there are some weirdnesses and I feel duty-bound to point them out.

The first thing is technical. Every time the kidnappers make contact with King, the call goes through a huge telecommunications loop until, finally, it reaches his iPhone (the series is like a giant ad for the iPhone - almost as if this were product placement, the rules about which were recently relaxed). But would King use an iPhone? Mine doesn't half drop calls. The kidnappers would have to ring at least three times before they got through, and even then he'd be shouting: "Can you hear me? I'll go into the hall!"

The other oddity is more perturbing. Kidnap and Ransom is replete with strong women, among them King's business partner Angela Beddoes (played by Helen Baxendale) and his wife, Sophie (Natasha Little), an aspiring politician. So, it is striking that Sharon Maughan who in real life is married to Trevor Eve, should be cast not as his partner (in either sense of the word), but as Shaffer's helmet-haired boss.

Presumably this is because of her age. On television, as in the movies, men can only be married to women at least ten years younger than themselves.

Amazing that Maugham and Eve went along with this - and that they did makes me feel just a little anxious about the state of the ubiquitous one's ego. l

Rachel Cooke trained as a reporter on The Sunday Times. She is now a writer at The Observer. In the 2006 British Press Awards, she was named Interviewer of the Year.

This article first appeared in the 17 January 2011 issue of the New Statesman, War on WikiLeaks