Missing Persons Unit’ Unique Procedural Drama

John Eisendrath wasn’t immediately convinced that it would work.

“I got a call one day from Jamie Foxx’s producing partner, Datari Turner, and he said that he wanted to pitch me an idea for a show. Usually when someone does that, I brace for a polite way of saying, ‘Thank you, but it’s a terrible idea.’”

But when Turner launched into his idea, Eisendrath perked up.

“The first thing [Turner] said was, ‘How about something about Amber Alerts and the people who go missing?’ I was like, ‘Wow, that’s actually a great idea for a show.’”

Eisendrath says that Foxx had had an experience one afternoon where he thought his child had gone missing for about six or seven hours. “Once that had happened to him, he did some investigating about the people who find missing persons, and it fascinated him, and he thought it would be a good basis for a TV show. That was basically what Datari told me.”

So, Foxx and Eisendrath teamed up as executive producers on their new series, entitled “Alert: Missing Persons Unit.”

Foxx explains the series, saying, “Set within the Philly Police Department, each episode explores the dark side of the City of Brotherly Love. It’s an intense race against the clock where every second counts, as it’s impossible not to fear the worst when a loved one is either kidnapped or gone missing.”

The series centers around Jason Grant, who teams up with his ex‑wife, Nikki Batista as they help others by saving lives and bringing criminals to justice while also facing their own quest to find out the truth about their missing son. Jason is played by Scott Caan with Dania Ramirez as Nikki.

Once Eisendrath thought more about the idea, he realized, “I think the cases and the stories are singular in a missing persons procedural.”

But, he says, “I did feel the need to have something more at its core, and when I imagined that it could be that Scott and Dania’s characters had themselves lost a child, that that to me was when I realized, ‘Oh, there could be a mystery at the center of this procedural show that could both bring people along who love the procedural pieces but have that emotional core.’”

Caan says that he was drawn to role because, “There’s a lot of acting problems in this show that I enjoy, and there is a lot of things that make this show something that is different than anything out there.”

He elaborates with, “The idea of finding your son after not knowing where he’s been for seven years, I don’t think that that’s an experience that anybody on the planet’s actually had. To me, it’s something that I immediately felt uncomfortable about and didn’t know exactly how I was going to approach it, and those are the kind of things that turn me on when it comes to digging into a part. If I get a little nervous and don’t quite know what I’m going to do yet, then that’s a good sign that I should probably move forward and do it.”

As for the cases featured in the narrative, Eisendrath explains, “There are a lot of cases that we can draw from if we chose to do just ripped from the headlines, [also] some of it is just based on what we think would make for just the most urgent, heart‑pounding case that we can think of and the ones that have the highest stakes.”

He adds, “[In] some cases, people are taken and are desperate to be found; some cases, people are running away and are desperate not to be found. That’s part of the mystery that our characters have to unpack each week.”

A lot of the cases are chosen because of their impact on the central couple, reveals Eisendrath, teasing that, “In [one episode], is a parent who’s facing the question of what would she do if she came into a room with the person who’d killed her child. And that is a question that Scott’s character and Dania’s are both wrestling with. What would they do if they were ever put in a room with the person who took their child? Not only is that obviously an incredibly emotional story and question for the two of them, but hopefully for the people who are watching the show too. They will ask themselves what would they do if they were ever in that situation.”

But not everything with Jason and Nikki is all doom and gloom, says Eisendrath, pointing out that while they were once married and are not now, they still want to be in each other’s lives.

“I had hoped that we could portray in Dania and Scott’s characters as a couple who’d gone through the most agonizing thing that you could go through — losing your child — while it cost them dearly and they weren’t able to sustain their marriage, they did still have love for each other. When we meet them, Scott’s character is with one woman, and Dania’s character is getting engaged to another person so it’s [a] complicated situation, but for them, I was hoping that they would be able to navigate that incredibly tumultuous space with love and friendship and humor, and they do an amazing job of making that feel real.”

He sums it up saying, “I think people will watch them as an ex‑couple and as co-workers and as co-parents and feel like they’re doing an amazing job navigating an incredibly difficult set of circumstances.”

But it’s the breadth of the narrative that Eisendrath believes will really draw viewers in. “One of the great things about a missing persons show is the range is, I think, larger than any other range of storytelling available in procedural TV.”

‘Alert: Missing Persons Unit’ premieres Sunday after the NFL on FOX, moving to its regular timeslot, Mondays at 8/7c, the next night.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/anneeaston/2023/01/06/high-stakes-ticking-clock-and-personal-connections-make-alert-missing-persons-unit-unique-procedural-drama/