'Alert: Missing Persons Unit' review: Silly, but somehow you can't look away

'Even if you are my boss, one more Dora Milaje wisecrack and I'll lay the smackdown on you with my vibranium ... detective's shield.' Photos: Handout

After a few episodes of Alert: Missing Persons Unit, a police procedural whose title says not nearly enough of what you need to know about it, I fondly recalled my childhood days reading British weekly comics like The Dandy and The Beano.

You see, one of the splendid slang terms I learned from those periodicals was "barmy" – meaning silly, batty, bonkers, daft ... you get the idea.

And A:MPU, co-created by The Blacklist and Alias veteran John Eisendrath and another famous chap named, umm, Jamie Foxx, certainly struck me as barmy – in a somehow endearing way.

You know that TV series trope where the case of the week – say, involving a bad guy trying to be a good father to his kids – coincidentally has a parallel with something going on at that very moment in the life of one protagonist or another?

Heck, this show goes above and beyond; its lead characters' entire unfolding story parallels every single case.

Set in Philadelphia, A:MPU revolves around the city police department's Missing Persons Unit, headed by Captain Nikki Batista (Dania Ramirez, Heroes, Entourage), whose son Keith was kidnapped six years ago. Since then, she has dedicated her life to helping others whose loved ones have gone missing.

She is aided by estranged husband Jason Grant (Scott Caan, Hawaii Five-O), a private security consultant who (sort of) rejoined the police over Keith's case.

Also in the mix: her current boyfriend Mike (Ryan Broussard), an MPU detective; fellow cop Kemi (Adeola Role), prone to Twin Peaks-like weirdness while battling her own feelings of abandonment stemming from a traumatic childhood incident; and forensic anthropologist C Hemingway (Petey Gibson), brilliant but awkward around people.

Book 'em, Dano ... for stretching credibility.Book 'em, Dano ... for stretching credibility.

While the 10-episode first season (the show has been renewed for a second) more or less follows a case-of-the-week format, the arc that underpins everything is about Keith (Graham Verchere), who reappears as a teenager after somehow escaping from his abductor.

While Jason and Nikki's daughter Sidney (Fivel Stewart, The Recruit) is convinced he isn't her brother, the relieved parents fall all over themselves in an effort to make him feel welcome and wanted.

Which of course brings Jason back into Nikki's life, which does not sit well with Mike, who just proposed to her (in such a random manner it really makes you wonder about Philly PD's HR policies).

Anyway, there's a LOT behind the returnee Keith subplot, which steadily gains momentum until it practically smashes aside the later-season cases of the week like a runaway train.

Which is a pity, because some of the earlier ones (for example, where a woman kidnaps a drug dealer to take vengeance for her son) are pretty intense and have relatable stakes.

'And since I owe my job title on this show to 'Bones', I won't work on any more cases until you acknowledge me as King of the Lab.''And since I owe my job title on this show to 'Bones', I won't work on any more cases until you acknowledge me as King of the Lab.'

But as the Keith story arc gets increasingly twisty and rollercoaster-y, Nikki and Jason's behaviour starts veering off the acceptable/believable path; and the way those around them try to justify (or just accept) their actions borders on just plain arbitrary.

The uniform earnestness of the cast does help a lot in selling all this to the viewer, though, with the appealing ensemble convincing us to set aside our incredulity and see this through to the finale.

And given the events of that finale, it will also be interesting to rejoin the characters next season to see how everyone is coping. Don't expect that to happen too soon, though, with the writers and actors' strikes all but shutting down US film and TV productions.

Well, since A:MPU's C Hemingway has brought "forensic anthropology" back into the conversation, we could always revisit Bones over on Disney+. Now that's a show that embraced its inherent silliness and ran with it – for 12 years.

All 10 episodes of Alert: Missing Persons Unit Season One are available on Astro On Demand.

6 10


Missing: Implausible

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