Third-episode verdict: Taken (US: NBC; UK: Amazon)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Monday, 10/9c, NBC
In the UK: Tuesdays, Amazon

Three episodes into NBC’s Taken, a prequel of sorts to the movie franchise, it’s now reasonably clear that the show wants even less to do with Liam Neeson’s European family drama than the first episode intimated. Instead, what it really wants to be doing is a slightly smarter version of 24, but without the full-on, balls-out belief in the efficacy of torture that being on the Fox network brings.

What it really doesn’t want to do is have prequel Liam (Clive Standen) acting in any way even remotely resembling Liam Neeson did in the movies. Things like being a father, working by himself for no-one but himself, having contacts. That kind of thing.

So, each week since the pilot, we’ve had our Clive off with his team, doing team things together, at the behest of boss Jennifer Beals. He’s not learning his very particular set of skills, either, since he already has them. Unlike in the pilot, though, there’s absolutely no reference to the movies, no foreshadowing, no characters who’ll show up in the movies.

Indeed, beyond the fact it’s called Taken and features ‘Brian Mills’, there’s nothing Takenish about it. Even Standen’s hint at a Northern Irish accent in the pilot has disappeared, perhaps suggesting it wasn’t deliberate, although getting him to be a soccer player in the third episode suggests the producers want to hint at some kind of European background, at least.

That said, the scripts are a lot less stupid, Standish is a vastly more compelling lead and the action scenes are about 1,000% better than those of 24: Legacy. Certainly, you can usually rely on each episode to serve up an unexpected fillip to a fight or a scene that you’ve never seen before in a TV show.

But other than that, in its foundations, it’s unremarkable. There’s nothing unique about its set-up, characters or scenarios that you won’t have seen in a dozen other TV shows. Characterisation is shallow, perfunctory and uncompelling, and there’s certainly nothing that makes you think, “Ah, that’s why Liam Neeson is so frightened of Paris in the movie!”, for example.

If you can get by purely on action scenes and the occasional signs of intelligence, Taken‘s worth a punt. If you miss 24 and find 24: Legacy an unsatisfactory replacement, give Taken a whirl. But if you need involving plots, dialogue and characterisation, Taken‘s not for you.