Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Pilot Review: Intelligence

Intelligence (Mondays at 10:00 on CBS)

Intelligence is the most ironically-titled series of the year. It boasts itself as a show about "the future of technology," but there's nothing innovative happening with it. The latest CBS paint-by-numbers is like Chuck plus Person of Interest, without the humor of the former or the grittiness of the latter. It's a humdrum action-spy procedural that lacks logic as much as it lacks originality.

Gabriel Vaughn (Lost's Josh Holloway) is a secret agent with a high-tech microchip in his brain. This chip makes Gabriel the first person to have instant access to the global information grid (databases, satellites, intel reports, etc). And because of that, he's crazy good at tracking down bad guys. He's the prime member of the US Cyber Command, led by Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger, CSI). After a botched mission, Strand brings in Riley Neal (Meghan Ory, Ruby on ABC's Once Upon a Time) to be Gabriel's new handler, since he has a penchant for breaking rules and being a bad ass.

Holloway really needs to find a new agent. He's been largely MIA since Lost ended nearly four years ago. Until the past few months when he's appeared in one of 2013's worst-reviewed films (Battle of the Year) and now in Intelligence. Holloway deserves better, considering he's still as smoldering and sensitive (but still rugged) as ever. If he's the only reason you want to watch Intelligence, I wouldn't blame you. I, on the other hand, need a little meat with my potatoes, and that's where the series fails.

Everything else is lazy. From creator Michael Seitzman's cliched setup in which a new worker is introduced to everyone, along with one defining characteristic (Boss, Techie, etc.), to the borderline offensive special effects (that shot of Holloway jumping into a Himalayan river is laughable), Intelligence doesn't live up to its namesake. Its entire concept can be boiled down to, "Gabriel is like Chuck, but with a microchip that does everything the machine in Person of Interest does." That alone is enough to make me leery, but it's not a deal breaker. No, the deal breakers are the really confusing visual presentation of the images in Gabriel's head; the overwrought score by Clinton Shorter; and a slew of poor performances from most of the supporting cast, particularly the awkwardly wooden Michael Rady (of The CW's Melrose Place remake) and the unconvincing Meghan Ory. Even Gabriel's characterization leaves much to be desired. There's a little sampling of his backstory when Strand mentions his wife died a traitor (raise your hand if you think she's actually dead), but that's it. Other than that, Gabriel is basically a machine. Why am I rooting for him? Because he was Sawyer, that's why, and Seitzman doesn't seem to be interested in going any deeper than that.

Plus, what is the fun in having a show about a guy who literally has access to any information he needs? Gabriel just looks at people and can match their faces to criminal databases. He somehow can sense a sniper about to take a shot at him. He can create a "virtual evidence wall" out of snapshots of memories in his mind. He has full, instantaneous access to databases, satellites, everything. How does one outsmart him? Disable the chip? Then Gabriel has no defining characteristic, so where does that leave the story? It's a kind of catch-22. The only trait about Gabriel that makes him unique is also the primary reason Intelligence doesn't work: the main character be comes boring in his omniscience and omnipotence. So when he is tricked in the pilot, it feels wrong. How can align a sniper's shot without having his own eye in the scope, but he can't predict his own kidnapping? How does he have access to mapping grids via satellites, yet he's cornered in the wilds of the Himalayas with no option but to jump into a river? It's stupid and illogical, the exact opposite of the show's namesake: intelligence. You'll have to go elsewhere for that.

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