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'Ten Days in the Valley' Feels a Lot Longer
September 30, 2017  | By David Hinckley

Ten Days in the Valley looks like it will also give viewers 10 weeks in a soap opera.  

ABC’s new closed-end mystery thriller, starring Kyra Sedgwick (top) as a single Mom whose daughter is abducted while she’s out back being a workaholic, premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. ET.

The 10-part series aims for speed and intensity, as new information arrives every minute and pretty much all the characters, especially Sedgwick’s Jane Sadler, seems to be in constant overdrive.

Everyone also seems to have secrets, which is where the soap starts to bubble up.

Jane Sadler is a TV writer, which probably made the role very satisfying for TV writers to create.

Jane’s under the kind of pressure that requires her to employ a seven-day-a-week nanny. When we meet her, she has just managed to carve out an evening to spend with her daughter Lake (Abigail Pniowsky, top), one she promises will be free of endless urgent demands for rewrites, adjustments and B stories on Internal, the TV show she’s in the process of writing.

Around 10 p.m., when she finally gets her daughter to bed and turns out her own light, she gets a call that a location fell through, so she has to write a replacement scene. Deadline: 4 o’clock the next morning.

You had no idea that being a TV writer was the American equivalent of those Bangladesh factories where 10-year-olds are chained to sewing machines for 14 hours a day, did you?

Anyhow, she repairs to the nearby shed out back where she has her office, turns on the monitor in her daughter’s room and starts typing. When she returns to the house some hours later after hearing no alarming noises on the monitor, Lake is gone. 

At first Jane and her half-sister, Ali (Erika Christensen, below right), assume it’s the work of Jane’s annoying ex-husband Pete (Kick Gurry, top), who’s done this sort of thing before.

But Pete swears he wasn’t the perp, and his girlfriend confirms his alibi. So it becomes a missing person and possibly criminal case, which brings in Detective John Bird (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, above) and some other police folks.

Now we’ve had missing-child cases before on TV. Lots of them. Ten Days may top them all for sheer numbers of underlying minidramas and subplots.

Pete’s girlfriend turns out to be someone close to Jane, only Jane didn’t know it because she’s either too overworked or too self-focused or both. Jane, it turns out, is not a particularly nurturing presence in the writers’ room.

Jane has some interesting ways of keeping herself alert for writing, we learn. She also has a secret relationship from which she is drawing much of the inspiration for Internal, which revolves around problems in a police department. The real-life police with whom she is working on her daughter’s case are not unfamiliar with her portrayals of cops.

Ali has family issues involving her husband Tom (Josh Randall), an unemployed journalist. The top cop has the social skills of a chainsaw. You get the idea.

To its credit, Ten Days in the Valley never loses its focus on determining what happened to Lake. It’s also true that almost all crime dramas ultimately open cartons-full of shadowy and usually troubling secrets about everyone else involved in the case.

Still, Ten Days gets particularly thick with unflattering reveals very early in the game.

That’s not necessarily a fatal flaw. Sedgwick and Christensen, to single out just two, are skilled at conveying the intensity Ten Days will require to maintain its starting pace for 10 weeks.

Viewers have also shown an appetite for this sort of limited series that promises and usually delivers an ending. So despite the fact the sympathetic characters here have major-league flaws and a lot of side issues, there’s a decent whodunit bubbling around in the soap suds.

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