What sounds like a highly provocative concept quickly devolves into a standard-issue, ABC Family-style soap in “Finding Carter,” a series whose protagonist is the right age for MTV, yet which feels fuzzily off-brand. Kathryn Prescott stars as a 16-year-old girl who discovers she was abducted at age 3 and is reunited with a family she doesn’t know, while missing the woman who happily raised her. Granted, MTV ought to be able to branch out within its younger demo, but this is still such a me-too idea it’s pretty hard to get spirited away by it.
Although one can appreciate the desire to plunge right into the story (created by Emily Silver, who shares writing credit with showrunner Terri Minsky), it might help if viewers had a little longer to get to know Prescott’s Carter in her initial environs, before a chance arrest lands her in the system and leads to her unwelcome, emotionally jarring reunion.
Understandably stunned, Carter quickly meets her mom (Cynthia Watros), who, in the program’s most risible wrinkle, just happens to be a cop; dad (Alexis Denisof), a writer whose one golden moment professionally was penning a book about the family’s ordeal; as well as a twin sister (Anna Jacoby-Heron) and younger brother (Zac Pullam). For good measure, the grandparents are Meredith Baxter and Robert Pine, adding a TV Land touch.
Prescott (another British import, featured in the U.K. version of “Skins”) is an appealing-enough lead, although she has a habit of muttering some of her dialogue — at least, when she isn’t angrily calling her new mom a “control freak.” While the charge is generally true, under the circumstances everyone in the family should probably be cutting each other a lot more slack than they initially do, starting with the thrown-together sisters, who almost immediately clash over a boy.
MTV has done reasonably well with its expansion into the scripted realm, and the show’s underlying exploration of identity and heredity would seem to dovetail with some of its unscripted fare, such as the nature-vs.-nurture exercise “Generation Cryo.”
Still, the glut of series currently devoted to chasing the network’s core demographic also raises the bar in terms of expectations, while providing the younger audience (tilted, in this case, toward females) plenty of options. Based on that, “Finding Carter” isn’t bad, necessarily, but nor does anything about it really cry out to be found.