Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Reviews - Scorpion and Stalker

CBS has two new dramas on the air:

Scorpion actually premiered last week, so apologies for the delayed review.  So what are we looking at here?

Inspired by a true story, Scorpion is a high-octane drama about eccentric genius Walter O’Brien (Elyes Gabel, Body of Proof) and his team of brilliant misfits who comprise the last line of defense against complex, high-tech threats of the modern age. As Homeland Security’s new think tank, O’Brien’s “Scorpion” team includes Toby Curtis (Eddie Kaye Thomas, How to Make it in America), an expert behaviorist who can read anyone; Happy Quinn (Jadyn Wong, Being Erica), a mechanical prodigy; and Sylvester Dodd (Ari Stidham, Huge), a statistics guru. These awkward geniuses finally find the perfect job when they are recruited by federal agent Cabe Gallo (Robert Patrick, True Blood, The X-Files)  - who once worked with O'Brien, the outcome of which was "most unfavorable" - to solve the nation's most intricate crises. Their liaison to the "normal" world (O'Brien admits that he and his team are indeed "a million miles from normal.") is Paige Dineen (Katharine McPhee, Smash) and her gifted son Ralph (Riley B. Smith), who helps them fit in and finally feel like they belong.

The previews for this series looked really fun, and I loves me a good ensemble crime-fighting show (ironically, many are on CBS, including Hawaii Five-0 and Criminal Minds).  It also looked to have a caper-type feel, which I also like.  So I greatly anticipated this debut.  Misfits is definitely the right word for these folks.  To say they are socially awkward is an understatement - O'Brien actually drafts a document to layout the emotions his soonto-be-ex-girlfriend will feel as he's breaking up with her.

It's also funny that these geniuses can't even make a decent living, despite being in business together for nearly two years:

O'Brien:  "We have a combined IQ of nearly 700 and we can't even pay our bills."  Ah, irony. 

How perfect then that Gallo comes into their lives to change everything for the better.  Patrick never fails to be a convincing authority figure.  He gives them a doozy of a first crisis:  LAX's control tower was hacked and communications between local airports has gone down, leaving 56 planes en route with no way of receiving landing instructions and limited fuel to keep them airborne.  Can you say mega-disaster? O'Brien is ready to say no ... until Callo offers each team member $50,000 to do the job.  Cha-ching!  It's not without its complications and pressure (Gallo makes no bones pointing out that the many passengers' lives are in their hands), but that seems to bring out the team's best.

Remember how fun Seth Green's character in The Italian Job was?  Imagine four of him, all in sync with each other, all anticipating each other's expert moves - yet constantly (and humorously) bickering with each other.  It's pretty entertaining.  CBS is the king network when it comes to procedurals, and I think Scorpion and its clever and quirky twist on the genre is a nice fit.  You can tell O'Brien and Paige are meant to be romantic foils (think Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt's characters in As Good As It Gets).  He may irritate her, but his ability to point out to her just how truly special her son is and how she can connect with him (he's autistic) is magic to her. She in turn puts him in his place in a way that actually helps his own disconnect with others.  It's a good pairing.

Overall I think Scorpion is well cast, well-written and well-executed  .  It has a great soundtrack that compliments the action, of which there's plenty (that plane-Ferrari sequence?  AWESOME!)  Imay not follow all the tech speak, especially when it's spoken at light-speed, but I don't care, I'm engaged nonetheless.

BOTTOM LINE:  Scorpion has bite, and I'll definitely be back for more!

Scorpion airs Mondays at 9pm on CBS.

Stalker premiered tonight, properly paired with the equally dark procedural Criminal Minds.  Does it have staying power?

Stalker is a psychological thriller about detectives who investigate stalking incidents – including voyeurism, cyber harassment and romantic fixation – for the Threat Assessment Unit of the LAPD. Det. Jack Larsen (Dylan McDermott, American Horror Story, Hostages) is a recent transfer to the Unit from New York City’s homicide division, where he wasn't a model employee, but his past behaviorial issues may prove valuable in his new job. His boss, Lt. Beth Davis (Maggie Q, Nikita), is strong, focused and an expert in the field, driven by her traumatic personal experience as a victim. With the rest of their team, young but eager Det. Ben Caldwell (Victor Rasuk, How to Make it in America) and deceptively smart Det. Janice Lawrence (Mariana Klaveno, Devious Maids), Larsen and Davis assess the threat level of cases and respond before the stalking and intimidation spirals out of control, all while trying to keep their personal obsessions at bay.

I have to start by saying I loved Maggie Q in Nikita, so I'm going to be hard-pressed to watch her in something else so soon.  McDermott seems to love the dark stuff as of late, so he's staying where he's become comfortable. The show is created, executive produced and co-written by Kevin Williamson, whose recent work has included The Vampire Diaries and The Following (he proudly admits "I enjoy scaring people."). 

Scary is right.  The pilot kicks off with a brutal murder, followed by a chilling run down of national stalker statistics and characteristics delivered by Davis an a lecture.  It's amazing to learn that celebrity stalkings only make up 10% of the cases.  Who knew?  Those are the ones you ever really hear about.

McDermott makes a very convincing dick, but Q goes toe-to-toe with him and you're just dying for her to knock him down some pegs (again, residual Nikita love).  I'm happy to add her to the growing field of believable power women (Castle's Stana Katic, Hawaii Five-0's Grace Park, Madam Secretary's Tea Leoni, Criminal Minds' A.J. Cook, among others).

This is a solid show, a a clear choice for CBS.  As I mentioned, it's a natural pairing for Criminal Minds, though it makes for a rather dark Wednesday night (thank goodness for the Survivor lead-in!).  It's not a stand-out on the TV landscape, but being the type of show it is, CBS should be sticking with it for a while.

BOTTOM LINE:    I have passing interest, but I won't necessarily be stalking it myself long term (though Maggie Q is awesome!).

Stalker airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on CBS.

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