Put simply, “Missing” is a gender-swapping version of “Taken,” the cathartic thriller in which a young girl’s abduction unleashed her father, played by Liam Neeson, to kill everyone until she’s rescued. Yet if the movie represented a 90-minute exercise in economy, the new ABC drama promises to stretch a mother’s quest over 10 episodes, without much in the way of wit or surprises. Ashley Judd plays the former CIA operative seeking her son — think “Alias” a couple of decades later — but while the kid’s lost, the first two hours make a poor case for the show being found.
Of course, the premise of a missing child is every parent’s nightmare. It’s just not every widowed mom who knows how to handle a Glock and kick the snot out of armed thugs.
Judd’s Becca lost her husband and fellow agent, Paul (Sean Bean), to a car-bomb explosion a decade earlier. The event was witnessed by their son Michael (Nick Eversman), who’s now 18, has no knowledge of mom’s previous career and has been presented the chance to study abroad in Rome.
Michael’s only been gone a short time, however, before he disappears, prompting Becca to take off after him. When she encounters stiff, high-powered resistance, the situation catches the attention of current agency brass, prompting Agent Dax Miller (Cliff Curtis) to bark at his team to bring Becca in “before this coffee gets cold.”
Series creator Gregory Poirier’s pilot is filled with such tough-guy (and gal) dialogue (“God help whoever has him,” says one of Becca’s former associates), in a show that has the persistent feel of a throwback — down to location shooting in Europe (Ooh! The Eiffel Tower!) being perceived as wildly exotic.
Aside from the fact spying and parenting don’t mix, though, there’s nothing fresh about “Missing,” from the title to the flashbacks featuring Bean, whose mere participation suggests reports of his “death” might be exaggerated.
Judd’s first episodic starring role finds the actress capably handling the physical chores of playing what might be called a “sock her mom,” with even her CIA pursuers marveling about how Becca’s spy game hasn’t lost a step during a 10-year hiatus.
To its credit, “Missing” enters the fray without pretense, and perhaps there’s something to be said for simplicity — especially given the competition at 8 p.m. Thursday, which ought to keep ABC’s expectations modest.
Even so, the initial legs in Becca’s mission provide little reason to be taken with “Missing;” in fact, all they really did was make me miss “Taken.”