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Anyone who’s watched the political and personal machinations on “The West Wing” or “House of Cards” – or watched cable news for half a day – realizes that the rich and powerful can be just as vulnerable as anybody else.

We all have our weak points, and when you hit people where it hurts most, they’ll give up just about anything to make it stop.

At 10 tonight, NBC premieres “Crisis,” a 13-episode drama that tracks the moment-to-moment action when mysterious forces snatch the progeny of the powerful, to use as leverage against their parents.

“The machine of the season,” said executive producer (with Far Shariat and Phillip Noyce) Rand Ravich, “The machine of the season is, ‘What will you do for your child?’ So we want to see parents, week after week, being asked the question, ‘Will they say yes?’ ‘Will they say no?’ ‘Who will they betray?’ ‘How will they betray them?’

“So there will be satisfying emotional and plot-driven, parent-driven stories almost every week while feeding into the larger series.”

As the series opens, a bus is headed out on a field trip, carrying students from Ballard High, an elite Washington, D.C., school that educates the children of top CEOs, international diplomats and political power players and even the son of the president.

But when the bus is ambushed on a rural road, traitors are revealed, and the teens and their chaperons are taken, setting off a national crisis. The hostages are imprisoned on one floor of an elaborate mansion – and one of the group may not be what he seems on the surface.

Gillian Anderson stars as IT CEO Meg Fitch; Rachael Taylor is her estranged younger sister, FBI Special Agent Susie Dunn; Halston Sage is Amber Fitch, Meg’s daughter (at least to the world); Dermot Mulroney plays ex-CIA analyst Francis Gibson; Stevie Lynn Jones is Gibson’s daughter, Beth Ann; Joshua Erenberg is teen Anton Roth, who escapes the ambush with the help of Secret Service Special Agent Marcus Finley (Lance Gross); and Michael Beach plays FBI Director Olsen.

Viewers wondering how such a thing can be stretched out into another complete season can stop worrying about that right now.

“We definitely have a hard ending,” said Ravich. “We have a climactic, satisfying – both emotional and plot – conclusion, that leaves a small 5-percent seed for next year to go back into a world, but we do have an ending this year, and we have an ending every episode.”

As the teens go through their captivity, sides of their personalities emerge.

“We started with Beth Ann, the daughter of Francis Gibson,” said Ravich, “and then we kept building around her. Who else would be in that world? We started with stereotypes – the jock, the outcast … and found out, ‘What is the real story of these kids?’ ”

But this isn’t any ordinary high school class. Much is expected of them, but when put under pressure, some may turn out to be more than they would have become otherwise.

Meanwhile, parents accustomed to being in control or having their own way are either put in the position of being helpless or pinioned beneath the thumb of their child’s captor.

Even Meg, who seems impenetrable in the first episode of “Crisis,” reaches the limit of her strength.

“There’s a point,” said Anderson, “where it becomes too hard to keep up that facade. Later on, she thinks she is broken. There’s a softer side of her that starts to break through, but it’s not necessarily sustainable. It’s quite dramatic, how it gets cracked in the show. Probably, based on how she’s handled things before.”