Pilots and Premieres: “Intelligence” – Series Premiere

Who:  “Intelligence,” currently airs on network TV, specifically on CBS, Mondays at 10:00 PM.

What: “Intelligence,” a science fiction action drama set in the near future, in which a federal intelligence agent, played by Josh Holloway (Lost), has been implanted with technology that allows him to function like a computer, interacting with other computer and microchip-based equipment for the instant retrieval of information, except that his human intelligence further augments this experimental technology and possibly provides an evolved consciousness and/or set of abilities beyond the initial implantation.

When: The series premiered on CBS, Monday, January 7, 2014, at 10:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in an unknown metropolis, though it is heavily implied that the fictional intelligence agency for which the central character works is in Washington DC.

Why: It’s science fiction, it features the deliciously yummy Sawyer from Lost in an equally charismatic and roguishly charming role, and it boasted an interesting premise, which could either blossom into intelligent (snicker) storytelling or fall into a formulaic weekly action formula that does not distinguish itself after all.  My hopes about the show were tempered and cautious at best, but I love Josh Holloway so much, I decided to give it a look.

How – as in How Was It?

The pilot/premiere rating scale:

***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING.  HOLY SMOKES!

**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing.  I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.

*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens.  There are things I like, and things I don’t.  We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.

** – I will give it three episodes.  Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together.  No matter how unlikely.

* – Pass on this one, guys.  It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.

Intelligence = ****

SYNOPSIS

Gabriel (Holloway) has been implanted with highly experimental technology, which allows him, a trained intelligence agent, to extrapolate and retrieve information at the speed of a computer, provided that his implant can interact with other computer-based technology in his vicinity.  In addition, his human imagination, emotions, and thought patterns add unforeseen dimension to these abilities.  Marg Helgenberger (CSI) plays Lillian Strand, Gabriel’s commanding officer, who places the protection of this asset – Gabriel and his technology – at highest priority.  She hires former secret service agent Riley Neal (Meghan Ory, Once Upon a Time) to protect the skeptical Gabriel, while spies from America’s competing foreign powers, such as China, vie to purloin the technology.  In the premiere, the technology’s inventor, Dr. Cassidy, (John Billingsley) is kidnapped, and he is coerced into placing a faulty prototype in a Chinese national; however, the prototype does not work, and Lillian soon discovers that the Chinese national is “off the grid,” such that she must strike a deal to save the lives of everyone involved.

THOUGHTS

Intelligence is a surprisingly sophisticated, fast-paced science fiction story based upon a relatively simplistic premise: what if human intelligence and artificial intelligence coexisted?  The success of the pilot owes a large debt to Mr. Holloway’s particular charms and affability as the open, if haunted, Gabriel, and his chemistry with Ory is, equally surprisingly, nothing short of sizzling.

The pilot was well written and executed, providing enough background information, without delving into technobabble, to establish the characters, the dynamics between them, and the purposes that each serves.  While the overarching aim of the show is unclear so early in the game, what is, perhaps, the most intriguing part of the story is how Gabriel is able to extrapolate scenarios.  He explains to Riley that he is able to visualize a scenario and walk through it, as if he had been present, based on data he downloads directly into his brain, yet his imagination allows him to predict and/or envision possible pieces of the puzzle that are not established in the data. For example, he is able to identify the mastermind behind Dr. Cassidy’s kidnapping, which is further aided by Gabriel’s personal attachment to the character, as Dr. Cassidy looked upon his primary test subject as a son, and the two characters formed a close bond.  His discovery is not surprising, but his method of ascertaining this discovery is.

In some ways, the pilot was so neatly executed, it could stand on its own; thus, the primary flaw that this viewer sees in the premise of the program is how the show will sustain itself over time. Gabriel’s stake is clear: he lost his wife or former girlfriend, who may have been a double agent. She is presumed to be dead, but he believes otherwise, and he convinces Riley that the possibility of her continued existence is strong.  Yet, how will the episodes transpire apart from that back story?  This viewer will keep watching to find out, though the performances of everyone involved are competent if not riveting.  Holloway is the reason to watch; Helgenberger plays another strong female in the law enforcement field, not a far cry from her time on CSI.  Ory hails from Once Upon a Time, where she played Little Red Riding Hood with a bit of sass.  She may be the weakest link on this program, outmatched by her costars, but she seems to have found a rhythm with Mr. Holloway that may add enticement to keeping a weekly appointment with this show.

RECOMMENDATION

Intelligence is reminiscent of fare like Minority Report without setting the whole program in a futuristic context, allowing for a connection to be made via the almost present-day backdrop.  The story is smart if oddly basic.  Those who enjoy fare such as Person of Interest or other scifi/action vehicles may find enjoyment in this program, though an affection for Josh Holloway will help, since he’s playing a somewhat subdued version of his character from Lost.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:

It’s not looking good.  Several episodes have aired, but the ratings have dropped steadily without stabilizing until just recently and have landed at about 5 million or so per week (with lower marks in key demos).  This viewer predicts that CBS will air the completed season, but cancellation may be in the cards.  This viewer will keep watching until if/when that announcement is made.

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