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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Is "Vanished" Worth a Look?

The reviews for “Vanished” have not been all that strong, so quite frankly, I didn’t expect to like what I saw.

It was nice to see I was wrong.

Now I’m not ready to declare the show the next “24” or anything and compared to the season premiere of “Prison Break,” it’s a bit of a letdown. But I found the characters and story interesting enough to keep me watching.

The show wastes absolutely no time getting started as we meet Sara Collins, the wife of Senator Jeffrey Collins (John Allen Nelson). She’s acting mysterious and then tells her husband she has something to tell him. But before she gets the chance, she vanishes from an event in her honor.

FBI Agent Graham Kelton (Gale Harold) is brought in to head the investigation in his first case since he lost a young kidnapping victim in a rescue attempt. It’s not long before he and his partner (Ming Na) realize there’s lots more to the case than meets the eye.

Senator Collins’ daughter Marcie adds to the intrigue with her mysterious boyfriend and by the end of the hour, even his son Max appears to have a secret.

The best (and most interesting) character is Judy Nash (Rebecca Gayheart), a television reporter, who plans to use the story to further her career. She and her cameraman (who she’s sleeping with) help provide the exposition as her reports recap the clues.

The premiere is so chock full of action I can’t help but wonder how the show plans to sustain itself for 22 episodes. But unlike NBC’s “Kidnapped,” “Vanished” creates a lot more possibilities for making that happen by introducing the shadowy conspiracy behind it all right away.

The glaring problem I see is some of the casting. Ming Na is a little too stiff and Harold just doesn’t strike a chord with me. One TV critic said that if “Vanished” had the cast of “Kidnapped,” you’d have a great show and I agree—with one exception. John Allen Nelson acts rings around Timothy Hutton and this role may finally make me forget he was Paul the Wine Guy in the first episode of “Friends” (No, not even his role as Walt on “24” did that.). And I would definitely keep Rebecca Gayheart.

Unfortunately for both “Kidnapped” and “Vanished” because of their similarities, they will always be linked. FOX is wisely premiering “Vanished” first and it clearly has the stronger pilot. I hesitate to say it’s the stronger show because I’m still recovering from the burns I received from “Reunion” last season, when I declared it the year’s best new drama after only the pilot.

Which is the danger of getting involved with a serialized show. You can never know if it’s headed in the right direction. But I’m willing to give this one the benefit of the doubt—for now.
“Vanished” premieres Monday, August 21st at 9 p.m. on FOX