Due to the limited amount of television shows I can record, my DVR didn’t start recording “Ransom,” a new CBS drama, until the fourth episode, “Joe,” which aired Jan. 28. But I was traveling and when I got home I had three, then four episodes to watch. Wow. I’m impressed.
The drama revolves around the character of a former FBI agent, Eric Beaumont (Luke Roberts) who leads a team of crisis and hostage negotiators that private citizens and governments call in as a last resort.
It sounds like a run of-the-mill procedural but it does something only one other show in recent memory, USA’s too short-lived two-season (2011-2012) legal drama “Fairly Legal,” has done. The premise is to negotiate resolutions to conflict and completely avoid violence. The Ransom team operates in “the dark shadows” where dialing 911 could have lethal consequences.
Beaumont’s mantra is that everything he does, he does to preserve life, to save lives. The only line he will not cross, the only thing he cares about, is human life. He is deliberate and composed. He gets inside the heads of his opponents, armed with information, psychology, and reason and with the confidence of his convictions. He is highly collaborative and a team player and leader.
“Ransom” is the complete opposite of “Person of Interest” though the calm demeanors and good looks of the lead actors, Roberts and Jim Caviezel, are similar. “Person of Interest,” however, is about as violent as network television gets.
On another note, the lead heroes of these shows are the usual suspects: white males. Yet the core cast of “Ransom” is highly diverse; “Person of Interest” is less so, probably because “Ransom” was produced for diverse audiences from the get-go. It is a co-production of CBS, Canada’s Global TV, France’s TFI and Germany’s RTL channels.
Episode six, entitled “The Enemy Within,” was timely. A mixed race young woman believes that the mixing of races is a terrible mistake, though she declares herself not to be a racist. She has set a cataclysmic event in place. Beaumont challenges her sources, such as the ideas of white supremacy advocate Richard Spencer and Nicholas Wade, author of the controversial 2014 book Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History.
I have heard Spencer’s name in recent months as white supremacy and white privilege are often in the news since the Trump campaign began (Spencer got pushed in the crowd at the inauguration and the story was covered by several outlets), but Wade is new to me. As pro-social television goes, this is an intelligent program that is connected to current issues and reaches a high level of infotainment.
While I think that Beaumont’s empathetic demeanor is attractive, as a character he’s going to have to show some flaws so the show can develop.
Yet ratings for “Ransom” are low, and I think that’s a shame. Maybe CBS should move it from Saturday night. We finally get a smart primetime television show that has all the required ingredients for compelling drama — except for car chases and violence — and we don’t watch it.
As an audience, are we not smart enough to appreciate a show like “Ransom?”
It’s the best show you aren’t watching. Don't let it go.
[Sr. Rose Pacatte, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul, is the Director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles.]