September 22, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Disclaimer:  Network pilots now in circulation are not necessarily in the form that will air in the Fall.  Pilots are often reedited and rescored, and in some cases even recast or reshot.  So these critiques shouldn’t be taken as full TV pilot reviews, but rather as a guide to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.

PERSON OF INTEREST –  Thursday 9PM on CBS:  If Nothing Else Is On…

It doesn’t pay to spend too much time thinking about PERSON OF INTEREST; the sheer idiocy of the premise will just distract you.  It’s all a means to an end, and since that end is fairly entertaining, it can be overlooked.

For sticklers, here’s the story, as devised by Jonathan Nolan (aka brother of Christopher and co-writer of several of his films, including The Dark Knight).  Reese (Jim Caviezel, known mostly for being Mel Gibson’s Jesus in The Passion of the Christ) is a former super-duper government agent and assassin; any resemblance to Jason Bourne is far from accidental.  Something terrible happened to Reese’s girlfriend around the time of 9/11, and Reese quit the service, becoming a drunken homeless guy with a really impressive reclusive-novelist beard, yet still fully capable of subduing an entire subway car of creeps.   One day, Reese is approached/abducted by Finch (the King of Enigmatic, Ben Linus–um, Michael Emerson), a mysterious billionaire who created and has access to a government system that gives him the Social Security numbers of people who will shortly be involved in violent crimes–as perpetrator or victim, Finch doesn’t know.  He proposes to feed the identities of these people to Reese, so the ex-spook can stop the crimes before they occur.  After the usual reluctance, Reese agrees to become Finch’s agent, and there’s your show.

Like I said, thinking about all this too much will give you a headache (Interest is produced by JJ Abrams, and it’s like his Alias, another fun and ultimately mindless romp where things went boom)–and the show’s depiction of our national surveillance system is like an AM talkradio rant come to life.  Really, it’s a jerrybuilt structure that will perrmit Caviezel to investigate and solve a criminal situation every week, pursued by the requisite dogged cop (Taraji  P. Henson), who knows something is up with that strange homeless guy.  Also, presumably we’ll get more about Reese’s and Finch’s mystery backgrounds parsed out over the course of the series, although at first glance Reese’s doesn’t seem too thrilling.   

High-tech and other serialized details aside, Person of Interest is basically an action show, and the pilot as directed by old hand David Semel (the Heroes pilot is among his credits) goes through its paces very efficiently.  Caviezel, his godly duties behind him, is a believable super-spy, and Emerson can put twelve shadings on pronouncing the word “Hello.”  Also, the fact that Reese doesn’t know week to week whether he’s protecting an innocent or pursuing a villain is a nice twist on the genre.

CBS has shown huge confidence in Person of Interest by giving it their prime Thursday 9PM timeslot. Although competition is fierce in the hour (The Office, Grey’s Anatomy, Bones, Secret Circle), none of them are flat-out action-adventures like this one, and Mitch Metcalf’s Thursday projection has it in a robust second place, just a couple of ticks behind Grey’s for the lead.  However dumb, it’s an effective show that could interest plenty of CBS viewers.

See more about TV’s new shows at THE SKED PILOT REPORT.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."