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Television Review

Inspired by the movie trilogy, ‘Taken’ is one dull origin story

Clive Standen (with Victoria Snow) stars as Bryan Mills, the former Green Beret portrayed by Liam Neeson in the “Taken” films.Christos Kalohoridis/NBC/NBC

“Oh please,” “Oh stop,” and “Huh?” are only three of the things I kept shouting while watching NBC’s “Taken,” a prequel of the movie trilogy that starred Liam Neeson. The rest of my exclamations are unprintable in a family paper.

The show, which premieres Monday at 10 p.m., is like a parody of a TV action drama, with directionless underground chases, generic bad guys, snide smirks, aggressive soundtrack flourishes, grunting people running from danger, grunting people running into danger, and a brooding hero who can do anything and who knows what’s going to happen before it happens and who gets shot at a lot but never dies.


Except a parody wouldn’t be so boring, so unintentionally illogical, so unmemorable, and so labored.

Really, “Taken” is a mess of a network show that, in many ways, has little to do with the movies that supposedly spawned it. Clive Standen stars as former Green Beret Bryan Mills some 30 years before his daughter and his wife are taken — even though the show appears to be set in the present. (“Huh?”) After a crisis involving his younger sister — thank your stars you’re not a woman who’s related to him — Mills is recruited to become a CIA operative by a government agency. Notable among its members: John (Gaius Charles from “Friday Night Lights”) and leader Christina (Jennifer Beals).

Bryan agrees, and — snap! — just like that he is part of yet another TV ensemble. (“Oh please.”) And — snap! — just like that they are dealing with crimes- and threats-of-the-week. (“Oh stop.”) And — snap! — just like that the show has even less to do with the movie. Quickly, it becomes clear that the makers of TV’s “Taken,” who include the movies’ writer Luc Besson, are using the blockbuster’s title primarily to lure in unsuspecting fans.


The script has a thrown-together feel to it, as if the writers have gotten too used to fudging plot details to care. The story lines are excuses for the mediocre chase scenes, and the efforts to make Bryan and Christina into sympathetic, traumatized public servants are lame. I did get a little emotional while watching, though, as I thought about Standen. The Irish actor was so good in “Vikings,” the History series in which he played hero Ragnar Lothbrok’s brother, Rollo. Like the others in the “Vikings” cast, he gave us a fully developed character in an action context, a guy bent with envy and traitorous leanings. Now he’s slinging clichés on NBC, another all-purpose network hero in a procedural state of mind.


Starring: Clive Standen, James Landry Hebert, Gaius Charles, Jennifer Beals, Monique Gabriela Curnen

On: NBC, Monday at 10 p.m.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.