Preview: Vanished


In the US: Fox, Monday 9/8c. Starts on Monday.

In the UK: Acquired by Five. Will air in 2007.

I moaned at them and wow, here’s the screener. Of course, the show’s airing on Monday in a double-bill with the premiere of Prison Break, but here it is nonetheless.

Vanished is interesting because it embodies that other network trend: the coincidentally identical premise. Remember when Robin Hood and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves both came out at the same time? And last year, when Threshold, Surface and Invasion all slammed into our screens (and out the other side eventually)?

We’ve got a similar thing going on here with NBC’s Kidnapped, since we’ve got two kidnapping shows at the same time. Vanished has a bit of a march on Kidnapped, but will the better show win? And which is the better show?

The premise of the show is pretty similar to Kidnapped‘s: rich man’s relative is abducted and the FBI have to help rescue her. Here the rich man is a Senator and it’s his wife who’s been abducted.

The show plays out rather like a macabre version of Anneka Rice’s Treasure Hunt. There’s a lot of shouting of “We have a clue, we have a clue!”, a lot of running around and bursting into houses or threatening cars with guns. Then they search the house or the car and oh dear, there’s a dead body. But wait! There’s a clue!

And so on.

There’s hardly a second allowed for niceties such as characterisation, character development or background, with only the lead character, an FBI agent (Gale Harold) getting much of a back story. Even that’s the obligatory “case that went wrong because he made a decision, his bosses overruled his decision and the kid got killed” trauma that Harold will no doubt get over by the end of the season, thanks to the therapeutic effects of kicking bad-guy ass.

Apart from trying to grab us by the adrenaline glands, Vanished‘s other tactic is to give us a little mystery. Obviously, there’s the mystery of who kidnapped the senator’s wife. But who is she really? Why do the bad guys wind up dead with tattoos of a “9” on their hands, the tattoo having been added after they died. A woman who disappeared ten years previously turns up dead in a house, having literally been kept on ice the whole time.

What in the world of all that’s weird and whacky is going on here, we ask ourselves? Let’s tune in next week to find out, we’re supposed to think.

It’s quite intriguing, I guess, but perhaps just a little too outlandish for true suspension of disbelief.

As with Kidnapped, no known FBI procedure is actually followed but all the jargon is there. Buckley’s ‘All producers live in Islington’ hypothesis is adhered to strictly, as we’re supposed to gasp with admiration when Harold uses glue pellets rather than fingerprint dust to take some prints: sorry, seen that a dozen times on CSI.

All the standard tough guy clichés are there, but because this is a Fox show, they’re all a bit more right-wing than normal: Harold doesn’t go to a therapist, he goes to a Catholic priest; the senator is shown to be foolish for not completely trusting the FBI and allowing them to invade every aspect of his personal life; TV journalists are all evil, particularly if they’re female and they enjoy sex; and so on.

Of the two shows, Kidnapped is probably the more interesting, mainly thanks to having a better cast and a lead who at least makes a vague stab at being charismatic. Vanished is probably just a little too glossy and a little too silly to compete on quality, but if you have a certain worldview, it might tie in better.

Vanished is probably going to grab the attention of those with more ‘fertile imaginations’, while Kidnapped is going to go for the smarter audience, although not the smartest audience. In all likelihood, then, I’d put more money on Vanished surviving than Kidnapped.

But as the Surface/Invasion/Threshold debacle of last year showed, simply because you have three shows with more or less the same theme, it doesn’t mean there has to be any winner at all. Don’t bet your savings that there’ll be more than a season of either Kidnapped or Vanished.

To round things off, here’s the official site. And here are a couple of trailers from that spam-boy:


Gale Harold (Agent Graham Kelton)

Ming-Na (Lin Mei)

Rebecca Gayheart (Judy Nash)

John Allen Nelson (Senator Jeffrey Collins)

Joanne Kelly (Sara Collins)

John Patrick Amedori (Max Collins)

Juliette Goglia (Becca Collins)

Margarita Levieva (Marcy Collins)

Christopher Egan (Ben Wilson)

Esai Morales (Kyle Tyner)

Robert Hoffman (Adam Putnam)


Mimi Leder


Josh Berman (executive producer)

Michael Cedar (co-producer)

Gareth Davies (producer)

Mimi Leder (executive producer)

Paul Redford (executive producer)


Josh Berman

Production company

20th Century Fox


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.