A recommendation for fans of Serial

Plenty of folks have been offering great suggestions for books, TV series, or movies to seek out next if you're a fan of Serial.

I'll toss out one I've been working my way through: The Missing, an original series that's a joint production between Starz and The BBC. In the U.S., you'll have to catch it on Starz for now, and I know most people don't have a subscription to that premium cable channel that runs behind HBO and Showtime when it comes to original series. Perhaps the show will be released on iTunes sometime after the series concludes on Starz in the next two weeks; having not ever watched any Starz original series, I'm assuming they follow a windowing system similar to HBO or Showtime. Of course, it airs on the BBC overseas two weeks before episodes air on Starz; those familiar with torrenting probably skipped this paragraph anyhow.

The series concerns the disappearance of a five-year old English boy while on vacation with his parents. The series jumps back and forth from the time of the boy's disappearance to a period eight years in the future, a la True Detective or The Affair, and that retrospective re-examination of the case gives the mystery a Serial-like feel.

In the past, I've found red herrings in television mystery series to be a huge turn-off, a narrative gimmick to prolong series for no reason other than for profit (remember the American version of The Killing?). Serial has given me a newfound tolerance for such false starts. In real life mysteries like the murder of Hae Min Lee, when you don't know the truth, everything bit of evidence the least bit prominent puts us on the scent of some suspect(s).

This is especially true for the father in The Missing. Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) feels a soul-searing guilt over his son's disappearance because he was watching his son Ollie when he vanished. In his quest to find Ollie, Hughes pursues every potential lead with a Biblical wrath, all human relationships, including his marriage, be damned. One of the odd pleasures of the series is Hughes' distinct bulldog unpleasantness; he's so exasperatingly unreasonable at times you want to shake him, yet of all the characters he seems to be the only one with a persistence to uncover the truth that matches the viewers'; Hughes is often both protagonist and antagonist, and Hughes and detective Julien Baptiste (Tcheky Karyo) become an odd couple akin to McConaughey and Harrelson in True Detective, each representing dueling impulses within the viewer: the desire to solve the mystery via the high road or by any means necessary.