'Missing': Ashley Judd can't overcome cliched premise

In the "Missing" premiere episode, "Pilot," Ashley Judd In the "Missing" premiere episode, "Pilot," Ashley Judd stars as Becca Winstone learns that her son disappears while studying abroad, and it's a race against time when she travels to Europe to track him down. Photo Credit: ABC

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REVIEW

DRAMA PREMIERE "Missing"

WHEN | WHERE Thursday night at 8 on ABC/7

REASON TO WATCH Ashley Judd as super mom and super spy.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Becca Winstone (Judd) is first and foremost a mom. Loves her teen son to death, so when he tells her that he's been accepted to a school of architecture in Rome, she blanches. Rome? That's where her husband Paul (Sean Bean) was killed in that car bomb 10 years earlier. Does he have to go to Rome?

He does and . . . by the show's title alone you know what happens next. The lad disappears and Becca, a humble flower-shop owner, has to summon her inner super-spy to find him. That's the easy part, because she once was a CIA operative.

MY SAY "Missing" begins with an effective opening that should easily convince anyone that Becca is all backstory with very little frontstory. She's got a wicked left hook, a lethal elbow and a pair of legs that -- believe me -- you don't want to get in the way of. She's the Bionic Woman without the bionics. Florist? Yeah. Right.

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But that backstory is (well) complicated, and, in the context of the sprawling landscape of spy fiction, cliched, too. As a culture, we've seen it all in the spy genre -- so much so that TV these days tends to wrap spies in parody ("Chuck") or turn them into sly, all-knowing, broad winks ("Burn Notice").

This show really wants you to believe Becca's the Mom Next Door who is also the toughest spook ever to have come in from the cold. Judd brings absolutely no humor or idiosyncrasies to the role that might help sell that unwieldy proposition. She's all business -- a judo chop here, broken neck there, until such time as she's required to shed a tear or two to remind viewers that she's just a mother who has lost her son. Oh, brother.

BOTTOM LINE Nice locales (Paris! Rome!), a couple of decent action sequences . . . but otherwise a tepid potboiler over-seasoned with too many spy tropes and a plot with too many gaping holes.

GRADE C+

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