If you haven’t been paying attention to the TV scene lately, it’s been getting more and more impressive. Shows are getting better budgets, a higher class of actors, and their getting all sorts of social media attention. It’s no longer passe or the signal of a dead career when an actor shows up in a TV drama. That’s why we’ve been getting more and more film adaptations on the small screen.
Like Fox’s Minority Report or Fargo, Limitless is a sort of sequel series to a years old film and hopes that you like its core idea enough to tune in week after week. But seeing as how much trouble the first episode has getting off the ground, I don’t see this series holding anyone’s attention for long.
Taking place sometime after the events of 2011’s Limitless, a drug known as NZT taps into the brain’s potential and removes a set of limiters which hold our thought processes back. As Brian Finch (Jake McDorman) feels like a failure (his dad’s sick, his band isn’t getting anywhere, and he’s yet to hold a steady job), he’s introduced to NZT and suddenly gets framed for murder when his best friend is killed. In order to prove himself innocent, he starts hunting down and taking more NZT in order to stay ahead of the police and lead Detective Rebecca (Jennifer Carpenter, who always gets stuck looking after a dude with major problems in these shows). After all of the shenanigans, and finding out Brian’s immune to the drugs’ physical toll, Rebecca chooses to work with Brian in order to use his super brain as a police resource.
I try my best not to compare a piece of media to other things, but it’s much harder to do with television. This time of season we’ll get a lot of shows with the same core formula, but only the ones with the strongest hook or writing manage to last into the winter. As Limitless becomes yet another cop procedural, it’s hard not to compare with shows that use its tropes better. A female cop teams up with a guy outside of the force? It’s done better in Castle. A guy who’s super smart and has all the answers? Check any of the leading network shows for white men who solve problems. Heck, it’s even in CBS’s own Elementary right now. Unfortunately, the only thing that could’ve made this show interesting (having Brian slowly degenerate through the series due to the drug’s effects) is brushed away by a Bradley Cooper cameo. I’m not sure why the show refused to follow a broken lead, but broken characters always make for better TV. Just imagine if later in the series Brian became a wild and reckless junkie doing whatever he needed to for his next fix in order to stop other crimes. But with the police providing his drugs and with the narrative mistake of never showing what it does to his brain, there’s a lack of tension. Even when’s he’s scrambling around for it in the pilot, it never once feels like he’s in any kind of trouble. All we’re left with is a super successful man successfully succeeding.
Seeing the film’s lead character (who’s now running for Senator) adds legitimacy, but it only reminded me of how much I was willing to brush off the film due to Cooper’s charismatic nature. I was okay with Motta’s rampant success because Cooper is a guy you want to see work things out. I’m not sure if the show will lead to the violent places the film did, but I don’t think I care. Unfortunately for Jake McDorman, he doesn’t have any kind of personality yet. I hope he can build it through the series, but he’s sort of a brick wall. His scenes with Carpenter are a travesty. It’s like she’s talking to air as McDorman gives her nothing to bounce off of. As for the show’s direction, the less said the better. There’s nothing distinguishing this from CBS’s other cop procedurals. It’s the same drab looks, the same weird CG, and lacks any kind of distinct characteristics. It’s entirely relying on the fact it’s based off a film and hopes we’ll enjoy the hook of the super drug enough to stick around.
But seeing as how much Limitless is limiting its own storytelling potential, feel free to pass on this show.
- This guy feels like a failure at 28? F**k this guy.
- It really is nice of Bradley Cooper to do things like this. He really didn’t have to show up and be the mysterious guy who knows everything (even if he’s the executive producer), but it makes sense for the world building. Cooper should really consider more villainous roles.
- Speaking of Cooper’s cameo, he’s a talking CG baby at one point. Yeah, I don’t know what happened there.
- I wished the pilot made more time for Brian to have fun with his new abilities. The montage where he experiments with his new brainpower is the best scene of the episode. McDorman actually has some personality here, and I hope there’ll be time for that later. The serious tone the show takes later in the episode completely snuffs out this Brian.