Missing: TV Review

ABC/Larry D. Horricks
Ashley Judd kicks ass in this visual treat from ABC.

Ashley Judd stars in ABC's 10-episode series "Missing" as a former CIA agent whose 18-year-old son disappears in Italy.

From Alias to Revenge, ABC has a nice history of taking rote concepts and making them cool or tapping in to our love of guilty pleasure. It's as if the network is giving viewers a free pass on expecting gravitas, so long as it makes the hour go by pretty quickly.

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Now it's offering up Missing, a 10-episode series starring Ashley Judd as a former CIA agent whose 18-year-old son disappears in Italy, and she shakes off 10 years of stay-at-home-mom rust and goes after him.

It's simple: Mom must find her boy. And each episode is shot (like a movie) on location in a different European city, so there's a visual treat. Also, Judd gets into fights, shoots guns, crashes Vespas and falls off bridges about every four minutes.

But the best part is that creator Gregory Poirier (National Treasure: Book of Secrets) has promised the 10th episode will resolve the season and set up a new challenge for season two -- should it get picked up. Poirier said he hates series that promise to solve a mystery then make you wait until the second season (if only he were running AMC's The Killing).

So that leaves viewers with a fairly risk-free proposition: Watch a show filmed in amazing cities (a luxury Alias didn't have) that has Judd kicking ass, and you will be rewarded with an answer to the mystery.

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That's not to say you'll get the mind-bending twists you got on Alias, but it also means you won't get the mind-bending twists on Alias (which made it impossible to follow). On the other hand, Judd's character, Becca, is more difficult to embrace than Jennifer Garner's. Maybe it's because the fantasy of Alias was clear: hot woman changes clothes to become killing machine. It was so ridiculous that everyone could be on board with it. Here, Judd has chopped her hair, making her look more severe. And she plays the "I'm a mom!" angle so hard that it almost becomes annoying. Maybe because Missing seems to be going for more heft, it takes longer to accept (the first two episodes don't come close to the dramatic intensity it might be shooting for). It's easier as a viewer to give in to the nonsense if it has more gloss and is clearly nonsense.

Eventually, Missing stops demanding that it be taken so seriously. Your eyes are in for a treat, and Judd grows on you. Some of the hokey plotting fades into the background after that.

That's not to undersell it. Sean Bean plays Becca's husband, who also was in the CIA and will be seen mostly in flashbacks. More could be mined from their past when he reappears. Becca's son, Michael (Nick Eversman), isn't around much -- just a few calls to his mom and then tape of him being kidnapped. More central are Dax (Cliff Curtis), who runs CIA operations in Paris and is tracking Becca but also trying to help her, and Giancarlo (Adriano Giannini), an Interpol agent and former flame of Becca's.

If you want an hour of escapism and entertainment each week -- and why wouldn't you? -- credit ABC for making an hour disappear into thin air.

Airdate: 8 p.m. Thursday, March 15 (ABC)