February 28, 2017



TAKEN:  Monday 10PM on NBC – If Nothing Else Is On…

NBC’s television version of TAKEN doesn’t have much to do with the movie franchise that provided its title, other than fitting into the action genre and featuring a hero named Bryan Mills.  Although presented as a sort of prequel, it’s a modern-day origin story that takes place long before Mills became Liam Neeson or even had a wife or daughter to be, you know, taken.  Instead, it’s the story of Mills acquiring those famous “skills” of his that he would eventually use in the movies, and the result is efficient but almost completely lacking in personality.

Created by Alexander Cary, a former writer/producer on Homeland and TNT’s flop espionage series Legends who wasn’t involved with the movies (Luc Besson, the presiding orchestrator of the franchise, is also in overall charge here), Taken the series begins with a sort of prequel prequel hour.  We’re introduced to Mills as a former DEA agent who in the opening sequence witnesses the murder of his sister by forces of the cartel lord whose son he’d killed.  As he tracks down the killers, he is himself shadowed by the kind of cloaked government agency we’ve seen many times before, this time headed by Christina Hart (Jennifer Beals), and including Friday Night Lights‘s Gaius Charles among its undifferentiated members.  By the end of the hour, the cartel lord is in custody and Hart has of course recruited Mills for her agency.

There are a few lines of dialogue that clumsily allude to the events of the Taken movies (“My advice is, don’t ever have kids–especially a daughter…”), but mostly this is action drama as generic as they come, with much of the plot driven by characters listening in on the hacked or swiped phones of others.  Director Alex Graves keeps the pace crackling, and within the clearly limited budget, there’s certainly plenty of opportunity to see faceless goons get shot or beaten up while good and bad guys bark terse dialogue at each other.  The characters, though, barely exist, and although that was true of the movies as well, Neeson brought enough authority and weariness to his version of Mills that he was able to make it seem otherwise, at least from time to time, a feat Standen (one of the fallen on Vikings) is unable to duplicate.

NBC has established a brand with these anonymous action procedurals, and Taken isn’t a bad fit with The Blacklist (and its spin-off) and Blindspot.  There’s even a slightly promising note in the interesting casting of Beals in a hard-boiled action role.  Mostly, though, this Taken hardly exists to begin with, and were it to be removed from the network line-up, it’s hard to believe anyone would notice.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."