Persons Unknown TV Review

Coming in on the heels of LOST fanaticism, and hoping to mine the psychological (and campy) possibilities of The Prisoner, which were left abused and untapped by the recent reworking, NBC‘s Persons Unknown is an effort which defies categorization. This is not because it somehow doesn’t fit into any number of categories, but because to put it in any of them is insulting.

Much like LOST, the show is screwy for the sake of being screwy, and issues which are meaninglessly raised are solved without much thought, and certainly without regard for any level of plausibility. Hitting on the idea, for example, of creating a bonfire, our subjects learn that they are in an entire town that has been rendered flame retardant.

The story begins with a group of strangers waking to find that they have been kidnapped and placed in a “town” in the middle of a desert. With no idea why they’ve been brought here, and with video cameras everywhere, our victims struggle to figure out what’s going on.

From Academy Award-winning writer Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) and executive producers Heather McQuarrie and Rémi Aubuchon comes “Persons Unknown,” a one-hour mystery drama in which a group of seven strangers must come together to solve the puzzle of their lives. All of them have been taken from their everyday lives and have arrived in a deserted town with no recollection of how they got there.

The eclectic group of strangers are Charlie Morse (Alan Ruck, “Spin City”); Janet Cooper (Daisy Betts, “Shutter”); Joe Tucker (Jason Wiles, “Third Watch”); Bill Blackham (Sean O’Bryan, “Six Feet Under”); Moira Doherty (Tina Holmes, “Six Feet Under”); Sergeant Graham McNair (Chadwick Boseman, “Lincoln Heights”); Tori Fairchild (Kate Lang Johnson, “Days of our Lives”); Erika Taylor (Kandyse McClure, “Battlestar Galactica”); Mark Renbe (Gerald Kyd, “Casualty”); and Kat Damatto (Lola Glaudini, “Invincible”).

While such short-run adventures can be a decent enough bit of fun (like last year’s Harper’s Island, which was entertaining enough until the end), this one seems run only on the mindlessly implausible, and eventually jumps the gap from simply being rather stupid, to actually calling you stupid.

Each next spin, all of which are largely unnecessary, adds to the freakish price tag of this operation, and whatever you’re breaking point, this show is determined to reach it. Building the town is bad enough on its own, what with powering it and so on, but we have helicopters, surgical teams, microwave force fields, and flame-retardant… everything. Illogic is poured over the senseless, and before you get a chance to find a comfortable patch among the morass to sit down, you’re being pulled along in a sea where every plot step makes less sense than the last.

Some of our “prisoners” are allowed to leave at one point, but for no purpose whatever, and they soon return. You can only manage that those involved had some non-related interest in killing off a foreign cab driver, and since nothing makes any sense anyway, why not find a way to make that happen?

Sadly, the acting is pretty good overall (though Daisy Betts is overdoing it much of the time), but the result of decent acting in this mess of a show only serves to make us wonder why we haven’t seen more of Alan Ruck lately, as opposed to any contribution it might make to the entertainment value of the thing at hand.

Mostly over already (or completely over already, depending on how you look at things), if you’ve avoided Persons Unknown to this point, do your best to keep it that way.

If you must take a look though, here are a couple clips and a preview. Oh, that wascally Joe.

Spotlight: Tori Fairchild

Does her heart really belong to Daddy?

Two-Minute Replay: Exit One

When Janet receives a trip out of town, she decides to take Joe with her. What she doesn’t know is Joe’s got a secret…


When one guest checks out, another checks in – and this one’s got some real serious baggage..


Marc Eastman
Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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