5 Questions And 500 Words: “Scorpion”

Welcome to another installment of “5 Questions and 500 Words,” my approach to reviewing the crazy amount of shows that will be unspooling/returning over the course of the next few weeks. Given the glut of shows, and the glut of reviews that will be published for these shows, I’m keeping things short and sweet. This is for your convenience and my sanity.

“Scorpion” premieres September 22 at 9 pm on CBS

Is calling this “CSI: The Big Bang Theory” inappropriate?

Possibly, but not entirely inaccurate. In some ways, it’s the perfect CBS show, which combines elements from its most popular sitcom with elements that have made its meat-and-potatoes procedurals so popular. A team of socially-inept geniuses solving crimes and preventing disasters on a weekly basis is a great premise for a TV show, even if its pilot highlights the best and worst possibilities of that concept.

Can we start with the good?

Well, it’s a big pilot, which you might already gather from the commercials. From expensive cars to a large-scale setpiece involving an airplane, there’s a lot of money onscreen here. That’s not going to be possible to replicate over a full season, but it’s well-staged all the same. While most of the crew does not immediately stand out, lead Elyse Gabel does enough to balance his character’s callous assessment of those he deems inferior with a sense that his character wants to be more compassionate, but simply doesn’t possess the ability to do so.

What about the bad?

It’s a pilot, so the secondary characters naturally get short shrift. But those quick-hit characterizations are pretty thin, and they often serve as plot devices rather than real people. (There’s always someone in the crew with a special skill that can be applied, making them the team version of a Swiss army knife.) Katharine McPhee plays a waitress who meets the crew during their first big mission, and while she’s meant to serve as audience stand-in, she’s also shown to be kind of a horrible mother to her child, which seems like a problem.

How’s Robert Patrick?

He’s a man who acts like he expects to be paid in cash each day he leaves the set. He’s meant to have a father/son relationship with Gabel’s character Walter O’Brien, but really his character is an exposition-delivering device. He doesn’t take anything away, but doesn’t really add anything.

Will you watch again?

I don’t get the sense that missing any particular episode will be harmful, which seems like something of a problem. Having the ability to simply drop in and out of a show means reentry can be easy, but not necessarily desired. It’s a slick, hollow pilot that was entertaining enough but didn’t leave me hungry for a second episode. And yet, given the dearth of truly great pilots this year, that actually makes this one a cut above the rest. God help us all.