Persons Unknown -- TV Review

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With "Lost" over, it's no surprise that networks are looking for the next big mysterious thing.

NBC's "Persons Unknown" has big aspirations and comes with a good pedigree; here, Christopher McQuarrie ("The Usual Suspects" screenwriter) is the J.J. Abrams in the room -- or at least NBC hopes so.

But the thing about kicking off a less-than-straightforward narrative like "Persons" is that the viewer most likely to get fully absorbed in the show by immediately looking for clues -- Why is the key in the Bible? Why is the hotel lobby playing "Beautiful Dreamer"? Will this be important next season? -- also is the viewer who has been burned the most by such setups.

"Persons" has a creepy hotel, a ghost town and murderous fortune-cookie messages, but it still is less must-see TV than "there had better be a darned good reason for this" TV. Viewers have to go in with not only a suspension of disbelief but a suspension of the cynicism that maybe the creators haven't fully thought this thing through.

It's premature to speculate, however. For now, "Persons" is delightfully weird and foreboding: A young San Francisco mom is kidnapped and wakes up locked in a room in the creepy Downtown Hotel in a deserted small town nestled in the mountains. In short order, six others join her. The connections between them are unclear, and somebody's not sharing everything he or she knows. Is there a mole? Who's watching behind the security cameras? Why can't they leave? Is it more or less bizarre when Chinese cooks and a hotel night manager show up for work?

With luck (and good ratings), answers will be forthcoming. For now, we're left with a lot of setup and atmosphere. But atmosphere and setup are easy; following through and making it all worth the audience's while is the tricky part.

McQuarrie has laid out an intriguing tableau with care and precision and invited viewers to pull up a chair. What remains now is to see whether what he's dishing out is enough to catch on with the masses.

Airdate: 10-11 p.m. Monday, June 7 (NBC)
Production: Fox Television Studios
Cast: Jason Wiles, Daisy Betts, Chadwick Boseman, Lola Glaudini, Tina Holmes, Kate Lang Johnson, Gerald Kyd, Kandyse McClure, Sean O'Bryan, Alan Ruck
Executive producers: Christopher McQuarrie, Heather McQuarrie, Remi Aubuchon
Creator: Christopher McQuarrie
Writers: Remi Aubuchon, Sandy Isaac, Linda McGibney, Michael R. Perry, Henry Robles
Co-executive producer: Sandy Isaac
Consulting producer: Michael R. Perry
Supervising producer: Linda McGibney
Producers: Andre Barren, Mitch Engel, Erendira de la Lama, Lorenzo O'Brien, Alberto Pando
Director: Michael Rymer
Director of photography: Jaime Reynoso
Production designers: Kenneth A. Hardy, Cecilia Montiel
Costume designer: Gabriela Diaque
Casting: Libby Goldstein, Junie Lowry Johnson
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