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Primal Screen

Primal Screen: Ashley Judd is our new, favorite undercover mother

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Missing (7pm Thu, ABC)
Becca (Ashley Judd) is a normal middle-aged mom who sends teenage son Mike (Nick Eversman) off to school in Rome. We feel their strong bond as Becca talks to Mike long-distance from the flower shop where she works. Then Mike uncharacteristically stops returning her calls. In a panic, Becca flies to Rome and stumbles on an armed intruder in Mike’s apartment. To our shock, she disarms and strangles him in a jiffy.

The normal middle-aged mom, it turns out, has skills. She’s an ex-CIA agent who can speak multiple languages, handle a firearm, and ride a motorcycle through a glass window.

Becca can apparently do anything, and that includes worming her way into our hearts. Judd has movie-star presence, and she creates a character who is both believably tough and believably vulnerable. She’s the kind of superwoman who smarts from bruises after her fistfights.

The production, meanwhile, efficiently establishes its premise. Every scene is assured, whether aiming for humor, pathos, romance, or action. The pilot ends with a cliffhanger, but Missing had me hooked long before then.

Bent (8pm Wed, NBC)
Alex (Amanda Peet) is a beautiful newly divorced single mom/harried lawyer looking for a fresh start in life. Pete (David Walton) is a handsome recovering gambling addict/cocky contractor looking for a fresh start himself. When Pete gets the job of renovating Alex’s house, romantic sparks fly, even though the two of them hate each other at first.

I realize I’ve just described the plot of nearly every sitcom. But Bent is something altogether different. When I say “sparks,” I’m talking about the kind that can melt your TV screen. Peet and Walton have extraordinary intensity, hurling insults at each other like thunderbolts. The script delivers up-to-the-minute irony, but also real emotion. And the supporting cast offers exquisitely absurd touches, including Jeffrey Tambor as Pete’s Fleetwood Mac-loving dad.

I hope Alex’s renovation takes at least five years and 100 episodes.

Interior Therapy with Jeff Lewis (8pm Wed, Bravo)
We’ve developed a love-hate relationship with obsessive-compulsive house-flipper Jeff Lewis after five seasons of his reality series Flipping Out. And the new Interior Therapy gives us more reasons to both love and hate him. As usual, Lewis holds the screen, this time while moving in with families who live in ugly homes. The premise is that he has five days to redo the house and the family’s life. He rides herd on the project with assistant Jenni Pulos, taking care of business with his amusing perfectionism.

On the other hand, Lewis’ self-satisfaction can be off-putting. “I’m known for two things,” he brags. “Beautiful design and brutal honesty.”

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