Friday, September 26, 2014

Pilot Review: Scorpion

Scorpion (CBS)
Premiered September 22 at 9pm

I’ve been writing a lot lately about pilot season and how there are so many attempts to seize on an original concept. This show’s poster has been plastered all around New York City and on the front of city buses for a few weeks now, and it didn’t exactly look promising. It looked to me a lot like “Numb3rs,” which didn’t appeal too much since I stopped watching that show after the pilot. This show has certainly assembled its fair share of eccentrics, four people with so much genius and absolutely no social skills. It’s a bit much, and this show doesn’t apologize for that, wearing its characters’ cleverness and quips as a badge of honor. The setup is rather basic, a hard-headed government agent constantly directing someone who is definitively antiestablishment to do things that he couldn’t even conceive of in order to help save people in the middle of unthinkable crises. The setup of this first hour has added a character who is supposed to be the polar opposite of Walter and his friends, not conventionally intelligent but particularly smart in the ways of the world, and her son who happens to be a genius with no social aptitude. I’m not too fond of that structure since it’s been seen many times before, and none of the characters are too appealing. Elyes Gabel is just the latest Brit to score a lead role in an American TV show, and his relatively charisma-free performance can’t steer the show too effectively. Katherine McPhee, the breakout star of “Smash,” has a more subdued and modest role here as his social consultant and theoretical love interest, and she’s considerably more bearable than Jadyn Wong, Eddie Kaye Thomas, and Ari Stidham as the members of Walter’s team. Robert Patrick has been much better in previous roles, and this part doesn’t demand much of him. I will say that, despite everything I’ve said, the last ten minutes of this episode were extremely thrilling, and I’ll never object to watching an action scene like this involving a plane. If successive episodes were 90% that and 10% awkward technobabble, this show would be well worth watching.

How will it work as a series? If my formula doesn’t pan out, which I’m all but certain it won’t, this show’s quality will vary based on the plotline of the episode each week, and if the specific case or situation is intriguing enough, the episode will be a lot of fun. Those who enjoy “Numb3rs” and “Bones” will probably like most episodes.
How long will it last? Probably a while. This is just the kind of procedural that CBS likes, and its pilot ratings were strong. If this show matches its numbers in its second outing next week, I think that it’s a sure bet to return for another season as a slam dunk for the network.

Pilot grade: C+

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