Hit & Miss This series, with Chloë Sevigny as a transsexual hit woman, is on DirecTV on Wednesday nights at 10, Eastern and Pacific times; 9, Central time.
In the opening seconds of the British series “Hit & Miss,” a hooded assassin is revealed as a beautiful woman, which is a pretty familiar story by now. But this show wants to up the ante. After applying some lipstick and changing the license plate on her car, the hit woman takes off her clothes, revealing two more things: the impressively trim body of Chloë Sevigny, and a plainly displayed penis.
So “Hit & Miss,” which begins on Wednesday on DirecTV’s Audience Network, is about a hit woman who’s a preoperative transsexual. But the show’s creator, Paul Abbott, doesn’t stop there. Within a few more minutes Ms. Sevigny’s Mia gets a letter with the news that a former girlfriend has died and charged her with the care of four children, including a son Mia didn’t know she had fathered.
Mr. Abbott has said in interviews that he combined two projects — one about a hit man and one about a transsexual mother — into “Hit & Miss,” which may explain why the resulting six-episode series feels like an unsuccessful attempt to graft “The Crying Game” onto “Party of Five.” After Mia drives into England’s rural north to find her new brood, the show’s first two episodes are mostly occupied with trite family drama punctuated with brief, elegant scenes of murder, like bloody little grace notes. The children’s reactions to Mia make sense on paper but feel arbitrary and not very authentic on screen.
With the great “State of Play,” the unaccountably popular “Shameless” and many other notable shows to his credit, Mr. Abbott is cut a lot of slack in Britain, where “Hit & Miss” got mostly positive reviews for its premiere on the Sky Atlantic network, though not, as yet, a second-season renewal. (The first season was written by Sean Conway.)
The problem with Mr. Abbott’s new show, at least in its early going, isn’t the premise but the solemnity with which it’s approached. If you’re going to do a series about a transsexual killer learning to raise a family on a rundown farm, a sense of humor would help. But “Hit & Miss” is so slow and earnest and teachy — several scenes involve Mia’s young son exploring his own sexual identity by donning a dress and headband — that much of the show seems to be performed on tiptoe, and a giggle seems like the appropriate response.
Part of this slowness has to do with the decision to go rural, following a popular trend in which British TV mysteries resemble contemporary westerns, with stark landscapes, laconic heroes and, in some cases, twangy, Americana-influenced soundtracks. The melancholy mood of “Hit & Miss” is reinforced by songs from the California band Gram Rabbit and the Texas-based country-rock singer Micah P. Hinson.
And how does Ms. Sevigny fare as a transsexual assassin from Northern Ireland? The accent sounded fine to me, and British critics have affirmed its quality. Her naturally deep voice is a plus, and her characteristic mix of loucheness and gravity makes sense here, though it’s less interesting in this role than it was in the bitterly voracious wife she played in “Big Love.”
If anything, she’s too sexy for the part: When it comes to the female arts of seduction, Ms. Sevigny doesn’t look as if she had much to learn.
Hit & Miss
DirecTV, Wednesday nights at 10, Eastern and Pacific times; 9, Central time.
Produced by Sky Atlantic, AbbottVision and Red Production Company. Created by Paul Abbott; written by Sean Conway; directed by Hettie Macdonald; Huw Kennair-Jones, Mr. Abbott and Nicola Shindler, executive producers; Juliet Charlesworth, producer.
WITH: Chloë Sevigny (Mia), Jonas Armstrong (Ben), Peter Wight (Eddie), Vincent Regan (John), Karla Crome (Riley) and Reece Noi (Levi).
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