By Curt Wagner
7:47 PM CDT, March 14, 2012
Give me a series about a strong woman who kicks ass and my fat butt is glued to the couch. "Missing" (7 p.m. Thursday, ABC; 2 stars out of 4), sadly, may not keep it there.
The new series stars Ashley Judd as Becca Winstone, who a decade ago became a single mom when her CIA-agent husband Paul (Sean Bean) was assassinated in Europe. Turns out Becca, too, was a spy, the kind that no one wants to cross, or at least lived to tell about it. When she jumps back into the world of international intrigue to find her kidnapped son Michael (Nick Eversman), she makes heads spin among the current CIA spies and kills plenty of baddies who get in her way.
Becca's search for Michael requires that she dig up old, unresolved issues from her spying days. Not to give anything away, but the first two episodes are loaded with plot twists.
There's a bit of Jason Bourne in "Missing," not to mention nods to Liam Neeson's "Taken," in which he played a tough dad looking for his kidnapped daughter.
I'm a fan of "Taken" and a bigger fan of the Bourne films, so why does "Missing" leave me so cold?
It's not because those plot twists are too outlandish or filled with holes. I can forgive those faults in an action thriller, and especially one that moves as fast as "Missing" does. I can even forgive that it trots out spy tropes I've seen in other TV series and movies.
What I can't forgive is how seriously "Missing" takes itself. Created by Gregory Poirier, who wrote "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," "Missing" barely winks at the silliness it slings. OK, when Becca interrogates her son's French girlfriend, she scolds her in a very "mom" fashion for smoking. I chuckled at that.
Even the CW's "Nikita" finds time for a few laughs and some romance. So did "Alias." Surely the "Missing" writers could have a little more fun with the idea that this former super-spy has been a mom and flower shop owner for 10 years. Instead, they load up Judd's dialogue with umpteen variations of the "I'm a mother looking for her son!" line in the trailer. They're supposed to be touching, but they made me laugh.
Judd, as much as I love her and believe that she could beat me to a pulp, brings absolutely no humor to her role. She's either crying over her son, killing to find her son or proclaiming how she will save her son. Her emotional range varies little between those activities.
Yes, I get it, you're one tough mother! Now could you lighten up just a little bit?
"Missing" star Ashley Judd will do a live chat on Twitter during the 7 p.m. Thursday (8 p.m. ET) premiere. Follow her at @ashleyjudd. Viewers can submit questions to Judd, who will also offer commentary and behind-the-scenes anecdotes about working on the series.
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