“I am not CIA,” Ashley Judd’s character in “Missing” declares with all the flared-nostril outrage of a woman who has discovered that someone is giving her child a C-minus in geometry. “I am a MOTHER looking for MY SON.”
Oh, she’s one of those. Kind of a combination of Sally Field in “Not Without My Daughter” and Liam Neeson in “Taken,” Judd plays a highly trained, retired spy named Becca Winstone, who, after her husband (Sean Bean) perished in a car-bomb incident a decade ago, devoted herself to raising their son in the suburbs. Instead of killing people, she became a florist.
Ten years on, Becca’s now college-aged son, Michael (Nick Eversman), disappears while spending a semester in Rome. After leaving her son a week’s worth of unanswered texts and voice mails (“He’s 18, he’s in Rome,” a co-worker observes. “He’s probably up to his neck in Italian p— pizza”), a frantic Becca hops the next plane to find out what’s happened to him.
It’s a fine display of helicopter parenting, which I’m willing to bet will soon enough involve an actual (perhaps exploding) helicopter. And Becca does it all while wearing cork wedges — stealing mopeds, hacking into computers, breaking and entering, engaging in lethal bouts of judo.
“Missing,” premiering on ABC Thursday night, is a fairly stylish and almost gleefully trite thriller straight out of airport-world. It was created by the screenwriter who penned “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” and moves at the same globe-trotting speed, with a consumer-protection guarantee to viewers that the story will come to a firm conclusion in 10 episodes. Becca will either rescue Michael or she’ll be too late. If “Missing” is renewed for a second season, they’ll have to find another crisis for her to solve.
Judd, who anchored her film career in serial-killer dramas, transitions effortlessly to the rock-’em-sock-’em TV format, which doesn’t strain her acting skills a bit. Each episode will flit from one European city to the next as Becca pursues her son’s kidnappers. The real news here is that the show was shot on location instead of cheaply using Toronto to play Paris and Prague and Istanbul.
In Rome, Becca gets help from a former lover (Adriano Giannini), but her sleuthing is soon thwarted by the local CIA chief (Cliff Curtis), who suspects she’s more than just a mama grizzly looking for her cub.
“What’s the PFA?” he asks, as his agents pore over Becca’s file history. “It’s the Parent-Faculty Association,” an agent replies.
“Missing” is certainly no “24,” but like that show, it prefers action at points where it could really stand to slow down and build out a slightly more creative story. It’s the very definition of a guilty-pleasure series, which ABC is getting good at, but it’s also a reminder of how far we’ve fallen since the more complex “Alias” days. You know how some people can get their father a spy novel and a sweater every Christmas — and he’s always satisfied? This is just his kind of show.
(one hour) premieres Thursday at
8 p.m. on ABC