Television: James Nesbitt in The Missing

The Missing, new BBC drama, starring James Nesbitt
The Missing, new BBC drama, starring James Nesbitt

If there’s something slightly familiar about the premise of this new eight-part drama series, it might be that it reminds viewers of the Madeleine McCann case, which is still in the news, seven years after the little girl disappeared. Or it could just be that it’s every parent’s nightmare.

James Nesbitt and Frances O’Connor star as Tony and Emily Hughes, who take their five-year-old son on a holiday to France. And as Nesbitt explains, in just one moment their lives change forever.

The actor says: “Through a series of fateful incidents, they have to spent the night in a little village called Chalons du Bois while their car gets fixed. It’s during the football World Cup in 2006 and we spend the day having a lovely unplanned family day in the village...

“When Oliver wants a drink they go the bar where there’s a big crowd watching the exciting France vs Brazil match on TV. For one second, Tony gets caught up in it along with the rest of the crowd. He’s been holding Oliver’s hand and the next minute he knows he’s not anymore...”

Even with one of the country’s finest detectives, Julien Baptiste (Tcheky Karyo) on the case, Oliver isn’t found, and his disappearance understandably devastates his parents.

Nesbitt says: “We follow Tony and Emily backwards and forwards between 2006 and 2014 as their marriage disintegrates and as Tony disintegrates. He becomes more determined, more obsessed and more driven by trying to find out what happened to his son.”

It’s a story that requires delicate handling - and the former Cold Feet actor reassure viewers that the scripts by Harry and Jack Williams do it justice.

“It’s all very well having emotional material on a story like this but it has to be well constructed and believable, you have to be able to invest in it. The writing in these scripts was exceptional.”

The parents go through hell and some and you can feel their pain, but can Tony persuade detective Baptiste to take the case on again?

We will be gripped...

The Missing

BBC 1, Tuesday 9pm