Alert: Missing Persons Unit’ Reviewed: It’s helpful to be able to point to a show like Paramount+’s Evil (or CBS’ old Person of Interest, if that’s more your style) as an example of how to do it correctly when planning the direction of a procedural hybrid—those tricky shows in which a case of the week and a larger, ongoing narrative arc go hand-in-hand.
The larger plotline must be developed, but each isolated plot must be satisfying. Idealistically, none weakens the momentum of the other, and in a perfect world, both themes will build upon and strengthen one another.
Perhaps it’s equally helpful to cite a program that is an exemplary model for executing a hybrid procedural poorly.
Fox deserves praise for their selflessness in releasing Alert: Missing Persons Unit. The latest drama isn’t necessarily startling or obnoxious in its badness. It hasn’t made me angry. It’s plain wrong, and if Jamie Foxx hadn’t been a co-creator, I don’t know whether the program would have ever gotten off the ground.
Scott Caan plays Jason, a former Philly police officer turned military mercenary whose son was kidnapped during Jason’s previous assignment in Afghanistan. Alert was co-created by John Eisendrath, a veteran of Alias and The Blacklist who is familiar with what a good version of this kind of show looks like. He is saddened. Nikki, his wife, is dejected (Dania Ramirez). Nikki is currently employed by Philadelphia’s Missing Persons Unit six years later.
Jason, one of those annoying TV husbands who won’t sign those awful divorce papers, gets the lay of the land from Nikki.
“Our separation lasted three years. I’ve known Mike for two years, okay? You and June own and operate a private security firm. She says, apropos of nothing, “You have been to at least three fertility clinics attempting to have a baby.
It should be noted that at the time this sentence is spoken, Mike (Ryan Brussard), June (Bre Blair), and Jason had not yet made an appearance. June will appear in the second episode, but she is not in the pilot.
He doesn’t even seem to be performing any private security work in either of the attacks provided to the critics. Just in case the audience happens to be listening, she is offering Jason something that he is already aware of. Multiple streaming expositional mounds slow down the opening 43 minutes of this presentation.
However, don’t worry if Nikki’s final exposition dump seems pointless. For Alert, Jason’s visits to the fertility center are crucial. In actuality, Alert excels at slowing down the progress of a missing person’s inquiry so that ludicrous discussions like sperm motility and whether or not males can fake orgasms can occur.
Although Keith, Jason and Nikki’s son, has been missing for six years, they receive information suggesting that he may still be alive in the middle of the different child abduction case that is the pilot’s focus. Jason feels optimistic at first. Nikki, who has dedicated her life to helping others find their children, is initially hesitant to have the same sense of hope.
Even though the Philadelphia MPU department only seems to consist of five people, that doesn’t stop them from boarding a plane, flying to Las Vegas, busting down a hotel room’s door, and flying back to Philadelphia in what appears to be an afternoon. This happens right in the middle of the case of the week.
This is just a tip for writers: If your case of the week is going to have a ticking clock — as it inconsistently does here — but the characters in charge of pursuing the case feel so little urgency about it that they’re willing to set it aside for a temporally unrealistic piece of personal travel, viewers won’t have any reason to believe that there are stakes. Doesn’t help the characters’ moral character much either.
It’s maybe fitting that the show’s presentation of the MPU is equally weak, as neither of the episodes I’ve watched featured a case of the week that was interesting enough for even a tiny investment. There’s a missing girl whose father’s job was in jeopardy and then a kidnapped drug dealer.
The squad includes “C” (Petey Gibson), who demonstrates technical prowess by photoshopping a kitten onto a photograph of Jason’s head; Mike (yep, Nikki’s lover as mentioned above Mike), who proposes in the missing person precinct, mid-workday; and, most annoyingly, Kemi (Adeola Role).
It’s not at all Role’s fault. Still, Kemi, whose specialty is “whatever odd thing pushes the case to the next scene,” is constantly wandering through the offices performing purification rituals and babbling about famous men she’s slept with.