‘Taken’ makes a failed transition to TV

Clive Standen stands in for Liam Neeson in Taken.

One and a half stars

Taken Mondays, 10 p.m., NBC. Premieres February 27.

In 2008’s Taken, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) told the audience everything they needed to know about his background in a simple, now-iconic line about his “very particular set of skills.” The development of those skills prior to the events of the film (in which Bryan tracked down the men responsible for abducting his daughter) wasn’t important, either in Taken or in its two (increasingly poor) sequels. Now that Taken has become a TV series, though, Bryan’s background is the entire story, turning a lean, efficient revenge thriller into a tedious, uninspired procedural.

Taken is ostensibly a prequel, following Bryan (Clive Standen, a poor substitute for Neeson) at a younger age, but it’s also set in the present day, so its connection to the movies is pretty thin. After witnessing his sister’s murder, Bryan gets recruited into a cliched secret government organization and sent on generic missions to stop terrorists and various criminals.

The show turns lone-wolf Bryan into one member of an ensemble, but his fellow agents are barely distinguishable from each other, even as they end up with their own pointless subplots. For a show called Taken, there’s also a shockingly low amount of taking, as Bryan’s missions have little to do with his passion for rescuing helpless young women. Change the main character’s name and this could have been any forgettable network action series, with nothing distinctive in its concept or execution.

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