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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Persons Unknown makes summer a little more mysterious

     NBC's Persons Unknown has already aired five episodes, but I hesitated to do an initial review because the first episode left me confused and didn't seem like a fair representation of the series.  Seven strangers woke up in a hotel, not knowing where they were or how they got there.  Now that a few episodes have passed, the second one being the only one that really stunk and bored me, I feel I can make a better judgment.  The show struggles to imitate The Prisoner, but falls far shy of that work, at least, the classic version.  However, it's worth a watch, and as the advertisements promise that everything will be revealed by summer's end, it may unfold some intriguing mysteries in the process, without leaving viewers unsatisfied.  That would point to this being more of a miniseries than a series, which honestly, may be better.  While I have been entertained, I don't see Persons Unknown sustaining years worth of interest.

     The central character seems to be Janet Cooper (Daisy Betts, Australia's Out of the Blue).  We saw her before she was kidnapped, and the main plot outside the prison / town follows her ex-husband, Mark (Gerald Kyd, the UK's Casualty) tracking her down.  Why he left her when she was pregnant, then changed his name and became a reporter is also unexplained thus far, but I assume that it will be connected to the rest of the questions left unsolved as of yet.  Honestly, from my current standpoint, the biggest mystery is why the people were chosen for the experiment in the first place.  For Janet, it could be as simple as her mother (Lee Purcell) paid someone to get her out of the way.  The mother seems to want a second chance at raising a child, and Janet's daughter

     Obviously they weren't just taken at random, but not each prisoner is important.  Or perhaps none of them are.  Tori (Kate Lang Johnson), while one of the original group, was picked up by a taxi at the end of episode four, and then apparently her dead body was dumped in a fountain, although viewers saw nothing between the two scenes.  Tom (Reggie Lee, Prison Break) seemed ready to let Janet die in the vault this week.  At least one, Joe (Jason Wiles, Third Watch) is on at least part of the scheme, as he has confronted Tom several times in the latter's secret spying room.  But Tom says he and Joe are being watched and tested, so I don't know who is behind them, or even if the entire situation is merely a training ground for Joe and Tom.  Another one of the group, Graham (Chadwick Boseman, Lincoln Heights) is convinced it's a military training ground, so perhaps there's something to his theory.

     Although many of the actors above have few credits to their name, the show does boast some real talent as well.  Alan Ruck (Spin City, Star Trek: Generations, Ferris Bueller's Day Off) was the reason I tuned in in the first place.  Sean O'Bryan is also a familiar face.  Better yet, the newest abductee is played by Kandyse McClure, almost unrecognizable in a drastically different part than the one she perfected on the recent incarnation of Battlestar Galactica.  I think one of the more interesting and mysterious, but understated elements of the series is the night desk clerk, played by Andy Greenfield.  And the other actors hold their own against these four.

     All in all, the acting is pretty good, the production style is fresh, and the writing is decent.  As long as it fulfills it's promise of a limited-run show, I think it could be a real winner.  NBC's web site still lists the show as running Mondays at 8pm, but according to my TiVo, the next episode will air Saturday, July 17th.  I hope that isn't a sign that the series will be pulled prematurely.

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