Cast: Clive Standen ("Vikings," "Everest"), Jennifer Beals ("Flashdance," "The L Word"), Brooklyn Sudano ("With This Ring"), Monique Gabriela Curnen ("The Dark Knight," "Fast & Furious"), Gaius Charles ("Friday Night Lights," "Salt"), Michael Irby ("The Unit")
Airs: The season premieres Monday at 8 p.m. on NBC
The premise: "Taken" tells the origin story of Bryan Mills (Clive Standen), the former Green Beret played by Liam Neeson in the original trilogy of films.
This version of Mills is 30 years younger than the one from the movies. Personal tragedy seems to follow Mills no matter the time period, and its what leads to him being recruited by the CIA. Luc Besson, the writer of the "Taken" films and writer/director of "The Fifth Element," is an executive producer on the series.
Highs: Turning films into successful TV programs is a risky proposition, but NBC hits a home run with its take on the film "Taken." In the Besson-penned movies, what you'd see onscreen was pretty straightforward - a retired spy rescuing someone that was abducted. The premise, while simple, made for a thrilling ride, even if the formula gradually became stale.
The "Taken" TV series takes a slightly different slant, which allows it to use Bryan's particular set of skills in a more useful way than the films ever could. Instead of constantly rescuing kidnapped relatives, Bryan's backstory has been updated to include his CIA initiation. To keep things fresh and Mills' character still formidable, the show is set in modern times and he's recently left the Special Forces. This new imagining of a single, robust agent leads to a deeper examination of Mills' history, which makes for a more complex character.
Mills has relationships with a wide range of diverse people. He's part of an off-book CIA cell, and as the new guy Mills is initially looked at with a bit of suspicion by his team.
"Taken" does a nice job of giving Mills a chance to prove himself and cleverly builds solid relationships that are clear to be relevant in the future. Most notable is Mills' boss, played by Jennifer Beals. Her character, Christina Hart, is ruthless. Viewers will watch her poison, blackmail and torture people to get the information she wants. But there's a softer side to her she only reveals to a select few. She's easily the show's most complex character and her interactions with Mills are always intriguing.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of "Taken" is how well it handles the spy genre. Most network series play it safe when it comes to violence and complicated storylines, but not this one. Espionage can be dirty work with many tangled threads. "Taken" isn't afraid to take risks to show how dangerous Mills' life can be.
Lows: Building esprit de corps with his teammates and learning some nasty tactics from his boss helps build Mills' character, but he does have one relationship in the series that doesn't quite fit. Mills has a budding romance with his sister's best friend. While it's understandable to humanize Mills and not just make him appear to only be a killing machine the combination is an odd one. There's little chemistry between the two and the "older brother with the younger sister's best friend" angle has a bit of an ick factor.
Grade: A-. NBC sent along four screeners for "Taken" and I devoured every episode. An action-packed show with an air of mystery that's loaded with interesting characters is one you shouldn't pass up. Rarely does a TV series surpass its source material, but this new version of "Taken" does just that.
Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones