Sep 17, 2015

Tradecraft: NBC Orders Taken TV Series

It was way back in 2010 that Luc Besson's neo-Eurospy factory EuropaCorp first announced that it was working on a TV series based on its 2008 hit movie Taken, at the same time that the Transporter TV show was announced. Five years and two Taken movies later, that series is actually happening, at NBC. Deadline reports that the network has put in a straight-to-series order for a Taken prequel series, focusing on a younger Bryan Mills (the now-former agent played by Liam Neeson in the movies) in his CIA days. There is no showruner on board yet, but Besson, who co-wrote all of the movies, will executive produce the series (a role he didn't take on either Nikita or Transporter: The Series), which will be a joint venture between EuropaCorp and Universal Television. Set before Bryan Mills ever married Lenore (Famke Janssen in the movies) and before the couple had their kidnapping-prone daughter Kim, the series will show us how Mills acquired his famous "very particular set of skills" and became the badass known to moviegoers the world over. You're probably doing the math about now and getting excited, as I did, for a spy series set in the final days of the Cold War, but alas, that's not to be. Instead, the Taken series will function as a sort of reboot, bending time to take place today, kind of like EuropaCorp's recent prequel The Transporter Refueled (which was actually inexplicably set in 2010, which is neither before the Jason Statham movies were made nor, obviously, the present).

So when you take away Liam Neeson and you take away Mills' family members getting kidnapped, what, exactly, are you left with in the Bryan Mills character? Quite a lot, actually. In 2008 (or early 2009, when it opened in the United States after playing in Europe), I think audiences were genuinely surprised by the lengths to which Mills went in tracking down his missing daughter. His brutality, when called for, was shocking. (Read my review of the movie here.) He is of the school of Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm (a character very different from Dean Martin's movie version) and 24's Jack Bauer (who also had a kidnapping-prone daughter named Kim), an uncompromising agent capable of anything when the stakes are high enough. It's true that we've seen a lot of such characters on television since 24, but based on audience's familiarity with and goodwill towards Mills from the Neeson incarnation, I think the right showrunner could do something very special with the part on the small screen—even on network television. Other than the contemporary setting, this could just turn out to be the closest thing to the Matt Helm TV series spy fans have been craving for decades.

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