Every development season disgorges at least one set of twins separated at birth, with this year's siblings in the serialized missing-person genre. "Vanished" gets there first and has more potential pathways to follow than NBC's "Kidnapped." Fox's entry isn't particularly inspired but possesses enough intrigue to warrant a second look.

Every development season disgorges at least one set of twins separated at birth, with this year’s not-quite-identical siblings in the serialized missing-person genre. “Vanished” gets there first and has more potential pathways to follow — it concerns a senator’s wife who suddenly disappears — than NBC’s “Kidnapped,” which is more in the “Man on Fire” vein, as a steely investigator seeks to recover a purloined rich kid. Slickly directed by Mimi Leder, Fox’s entry isn’t particularly inspired but possesses enough intrigue to warrant a second look; how many will find it in the first place could be another matter.

Emboldened by its modest success with “Prison Break,” Fox is aping its strategy with that show down to the pounding music and pre-season August launch.

In this case, Sara Collins (Joanne Kelly), wife of Sen. Jeffrey Collins (John Allen Nelson), goes missing at a swank event in her honor. Enter the 21st century version of FBI agents Mulder and Scully, with Gale Harold as a savvy but scarred hostage negotiator (aren’t they all?) and Ming-Na as his down-to-Earth partner, who mostly gets to yell things like “Bathroom: clear!”

The senator misplacing his wife is a big deal, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that the guy deemed most qualified to find her was associated with a major screw-up six months earlier that left him in a questionable emotional state; still, anyone who dwells on such matters is clearly overthinking matters, given the roller-coaster pace established by Leder and series creator Josh Berman.

Determined to keep things interesting, the series has plenty of moving parts, including a TV reporter-media jackal (Rebecca Gayheart) desperate for info on the case. There’s also a closing revelation that expands the possibilities surrounding the beautiful but mysterious Mrs. Collins. Still, the PR note that the mystery could “rock the foundations of American society” sounds like one conspiracy too many on a network already awash in them.

Harold (“Queer as Folk”) seems a little callow as the grizzled investigator, but one suspects that won’t matter if the twists and turns come fast enough to keep this lightweight thriller airborne. Whether they will is the nagging question hovering over this fall’s crop of heavily serialized dramas, which require more than a passing commitment from viewers.

Lacking “Prison Break’s” tough milieu and its initial narrative drive, “Vanished” doesn’t exactly scream “Watch me.” Nevertheless, it’s polished enough and very much a work in progress, given that Esai Morales and Penelope Ann Miller will join the cast post-pilot.

Thanks to the early start and “Break” lead-in, the series has a narrow window to hook viewers before the cavalry arrives on the other nets. At that point, unless “Vanished” can find a higher gear, expect parts of the audience to begin pulling their own vanishing act.

Vanished

Fox, Mon. Aug. 21, 9 p.m.

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles and Atlanta by Osprey Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox Television. Executive producers, Josh Berman, Mimi Leder, Paul Redford; co-executive producers, Chris Black, Carla Kettner; director, Leder; writer, Berman.

Crew

Camera, Charles Minsky; editor, Rick Tuber; music, Robert Duncan; production designer, Keith Neely; casting, Liberman/Patton Casting. Running Time: 60 MIN.

Cast

Graham Kelton - Gale Harold Jeffrey Collins - John Allen Nelson Sara Collins - Joanne Kelly Judy Nash - Rebecca Gayheart Marcy Collins - Margarita Levieva Max Collins - John Patrick Amedori Ben Wilson - Christopher Egan Agent Len Mei - Ming-Na
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