Thursday, 9 January 2014

Pilot review: CBS's INTELLIGENCE

Thursday, 9 January 2014

written by Michael Seitzman | directed by David Semel

I love American television for many reasons, but it's a sausage-making factory and the huge majority of shows (particularly on mainstream networks) don't feel special and aren't very original. How many modern updates of The Six Million Dollar Man are we going to get? Intelligence is yet another post-Bionic Woman stab; this time with the emphasis on the mental rather than the physical. In that respect it's like a humourless version of Chuck, or that comedy's own antecedent Jake 2.0, constrained by its grounding in the procedural milieu of sourpuss bosses, middle-aged nerds, and foxy female agents...

Gabriel Vaughn (Josh Holloway) is the all-American hunk of manliness playing our hero; a former Navy SEAL who becomes the first person implanted with a microchip enabling him to remote access the global information grid. Essentially this means he can call up the internet, satellite imagery, and audio-visual communications through his mind's eye. It's a fun visual for the show to have fun with through expensive CGI 'bullet-time' shots, as Gabriel essentially lives inside an "augmented reality" where criminal faces become mugshots to filter through, and he can even walk around a virtual "evidence wall" resembling a scene frozen in time.

Beyond this flourish, and a few inventive ways for Gabriel to use his abilities (I liked him talking someone through making the perfect sniper shot, using a wireless feed on the rifle's sight), Intelligence's pilot was clogged with clich├ęs and lazy set-ups. Gabriel's looking for his missing wife; he's partnered by an attractive woman in Riley Neal (Meghan Ory), a "bodyguard" who's by-the-book in her approach to work; and it's no surprise that Holloway appears to be getting an Evil Lindsay Wagner to contend with down the line.
Riley: Where'd you learn Mandarin?
Gabriel: I didn't. I got an app for that.
To some extent you learn to see through US pilots that don't seem to be offering much that's fresh and innovative, in the vague hope it's only this generic to sneak past studio execs and will morph into something more interesting (a tactic beautifully deployed by Holloway's previous show, Lost). But it's a particular shame this pilot wasted Josh Holloway, who made such a great impression on Lost as sardonic con man Sawyer. He had great charm and humour in that role, but little of that's in evidence here. Gabriel could be played by any number of handsome leading men, on the evidence of how the character's written here. Gabriel's too much of a straight man because he's a special ops veteran, and I think Holloway works best as an outsider or maverick. Maybe they'll adjust things over time, to play to that more, but then you'd have to wonder why the US government would have chosen a troublemaker to have this microchip installed.

Overall, Intelligence isn't anything I'm going to be sticking around for. Even if they manage to utilise Holloway's natural strengths and come up with cooler ways to use his cyber-brain (that doesn't make it seem like just very portable tablet computer), it's still basically a procedural about a super-human aided by a sexy sidekick they'll begin a 'will-they-won't-they?' romance with soon. You know the drill with shows like this, and even if the writers manage to avoid some of the more obvious pitfalls and tropes, it's still a CBS crime procedural at heart. I have better things to do with my time than invest in this, on the off-chance it will become something decent in some people's eyes (like Person of Interest), but let me know when Google Glass gets close to what Gabriel's packing. I'd buy one for the Sat Nav alone.

7 January 2014 | CBS