January 7, 2014

THE SKED Pilot Review: “Intelligence”


INTELLIGENCE:  Preview Tonight at 9PM, then Monday 10PM on CBS starting January 13 – If Nothing Else Is On…

Gabriel Black (Josh Holloway), the hero of CBS’s midseason entry INTELLIGENCE, follows in the TV footsteps of Chuck and the autistic character from Alphas by having a brain directly wired into all electronic signals in the world.  That gives him instant access to computer networks, e-mails, satellite imagery, etc.  It also inevitably puts him at the middle of a multi-billion dollar government program and much skullduggery.  The show doesn’t have the comic spryness or the romance of Chuck, and the result plays as a less intriguing version of Person of Interest.

When we meet Gabriel, he’s already had the high-tech chip in his head for a while, and travels the world undertaking missions directed by tough-talking project head Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger).  After he’s barely survived an incident on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border in the pre-credit sequence, the pilot, written by series creator Michael Seitzman, introduces Riley O’Neill (Meghan Ory, until recently Little Red Riding Hood on Once Upon A Time) as his new minder, fresh from the Secret Service and fulfilling all the TV requirements of beauty, smarts (she speaks Chinese better than Gabriel’s super-app) and bravery.  Since even procedural pilots try to kick things off with a story that has more relevance than a mere case-of-the-week, soon enough Gabriel and Riley are off to rescue the scientist who implanted Gabriel in the first place, and who sees him as a surrogate son, doing battle with a set of Chinese kidnappers.

Intelligence feels by-the-numbers, although Holloway, Helgenberger and Ory, charismatic series veterans all, do their best to provide some liveliness.  There’s a bit of half-hearted mythology–Gabriel’s wife is believed to have died while taking part in a terrorist attack, but neither he nor we believe that for a moment–not nearly as interesting as the one in Person of Interest.  (It should be noted that Barry Schindel, of Numb3rs and Law & Order, has joined the Intelligence team as showrunner since the pilot was produced, so the series proper may have a somewhat different feel.)  Holloway plays his borderline-arrogant Sawyerish charm for all its worth, but all three of the leads have had better material before, and the pilot’s storyline is a succession of predictable twists and shootouts.  (Director David Semel does contribute a well-visualized action sequence in a paintball parlor.)  In the tradition of Psych, CSI, Hannibal and Unforgettable, there’s stylized imagery to convey the feel of Gabriel being inside his mega-brain, seeing the data he’s receiving as though it’s a physical setting.   (He does note, however, that some of what he sees comes from his own imagination and tells people it should be interpreted “like a dream,” which doesn’t seem to be the most reliable way of pursuing an official investigation unless you’re Dale Cooper and the crime is taking place in Twin Peaks).

Intelligence has its work cut out for it, facing off with NBC’s smash The Blacklist, which has already left the high-profile Hostages in its wake.  It seems unlikely the competent but unexciting Intelligence will make much impact on the timeslot, and may not even manage the high-1 ratings Hawaii 5-0 had there last season. (Although at this point, CBS may be satisfied with any numbers above the rock-button ones for Hostages.)  In any case, there’s nothing about the pilot that suggests it can generate much enthusiasm on its own.


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."