• Quick takes on some of the new season's many dramas.
Kidnapped (NBC, 8 p.m. Saturday) • It figures that my favorite new drama has already been given a death-sentence and shipped off to Saturday's rerun wasteland to burn off the remainder of its 13 episodes (last season, I was into Invasion and Surface). The show has a cinematic quality that doesn't feel like an NBC drama, and the characters and plotting are rich. Fifteen-year-old Leopold Cain (Will Denton), son of a wealthy family, is abducted, and Jeremy Sisto excels as a former FBI agent who works outside the system to recover kidnap victims by whatever ruthless means necessary. Interesting things going on include father Conrad Cain (expertly captured by Timothy Hutton) confronting old enemies and the kidnap mastermind having his minions murdered by a cold assassin. I'm completely hooked, and this show deserves a better fate. Verdict: &&&&1/2
Ugly Betty (ABC, 7 p.m. Thursday) • Despite having one of those killer no-holds-barred timeslots, Ugly Betty, based on a Univision telenovela, has "breakout hit" written all over it. The title sparks curiosity, and that soapy-cheesy telenovela sensibility is appealing (I loved the scene last week in which Betty's father was seen watching a telenovela). You can't help but root for Betty (America Ferrera), who's just landed an editorial assistant gig at Mode, a fashion magazine full of cutthroats. When she gets in a bind, her hilariously spunky, "no you di-in!" sister, Hilda (Ana Ortiz), comes to the rescue. Verdict: &&&
Shark (CBS, 9 p.m. Thursday) • James Woods perfectly nails Sebastian Stark, a shyster defense attorney who converts to the DA's office after seeing one of the clients he saved from a murder conviction with blood on his hands. Among Stark's foils are Star Trek: Voyager's Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) as his former nemesis in the DA's office and a team of young, green prosecutors. Boston Legal may do the smarmy shtick best, but Shark acquits itself well. Verdict: &&&1/2
Smith (CBS) • Reports indicate CBS has already sent Smith to the trash heap. The premiere was a well-crafted actioner with Ray Liotta leading a team of surgical strike criminals while coming to the realization that he must drop his double life and be a family man. Verdict: &&&
Men in Trees (ABC, 8 p.m. Friday) • This music-happy Anne Heche vehicle comes across as a quirky sex/relationship drama with a dose of Northern Exposure-wannabe quirkiness. My favorite exchange from last week's episode: She: "What's that thing on your hand?" He: "That's a condom machine." Verdict: &&1/2
All times central. Photo: Kidnapped/NBC