Credit: Larry D. Horricks/ABC
30 Rock

Ashley Judd played a mother out to find her kidnapped son in Thursday night’s premiere of Missing. For an actor who’s so good at delivering dialogue with lucid straightforwardness, Judd was best when she wasn’t speaking — when, indeed, she was delivering sharp elbows and chin-strikes to guys attacking her. This did not bode well for Missing as appointment television. Especially when Community and 30 Rock are available as competition.

As Rebecca Winstone, Judd is a former CIA agent turned flower-shop owner; her son, Michael (Nick Eversman), is a super-nice kid who gets snatched while living in Europe. If you hadn’t seen a promo for Missing, you might have been surprised when Polite Small Business Owner Becca suddenly snapped into CIA-Trained Butt-Kicker Becca almost as soon as she touches down in Italy. As it was, there was minimal suspense. Somehow, this series created by screenwriter Gregory Poirier (National Treasure: Book of Secrets) arrived with built-in exhaustion: You sensed very early on that you were in for some action scenes, some Becca-reconnects-with-old-colleagues scenes, and a cliff-hanger that in no way possible would even hint that Michael might be rescued any time soon.

Judd is someone whose acting I’ve admired for years, even though when you look at her filmography, she hasn’t really been in too many first-rate movies. She was terrific in a comparatively small role in the great Michael Mann film Heat; she was excellent in the little seen 2007 film Bug. She’s delivered finely delineated performances in movies that aren’t worthy of her talent, from Double Jeopardy to The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. But given her cinema output in recent years — Tooth Fairy; Dolphin Tale — it’s no wonder she took seriously an offer to do a weekly TV drama.

It’s too bad, therefore, that Judd committed to Missing. The conversations between Becca and her connections to Interpol and the CIA were rattled-off chatter, just words used to get Becca to move from one place to another, express her fierce maternal instinct, and establish her as a rebel with a cause. I’m an ideal audience for Missing — a Judd admirer; a fan of the sort of action fighting her character is required to do — and yet I found the show tedious, and oh-so-humorless. I wasn’t expecting sitcom-competition laughs, or even Alias-style irony — just some glint that Becca might, after committing to the agony of finding her son, possess some wry self-awareness that, ten years on, here she was doing battle with baddies once again. The series jumps to another country next week, and that one is almost interchangeable with this week’s debut. I wish Ashley Judd had herself a better show.

Will you keep watching Missing?

Twitter: @kentucker

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30 Rock
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