September 29, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “Scorpion”


SCORPION:  Monday 9PM on CBS

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on SCORPION:  Walter O’Brien (Elyes Gabel) is the leader of a group of geniuses–behaviorist Toby (Eddie Kaye Thomas), mathematician Sylvester (Ari Stidham), and engineer Happy (Jadyn Wong)–who solve high-tech crimes for the government, represented by Homeland Security agent Gallo (Robert Patrick).  The team’s ambassador of empathy is Paige (Katharine McPhee), single mother herself of a troubled boy genius, who takes care of the feathers the others ruffle and reminds the brainiacs to be human.  (O’Brien is a real person, and Scorpion is purportedly based, however loosely, on his adventures.)

Episode 2:  Not unexpectedly, the second episode of Scorpion was far less visually spectacular than its pilot.  Instead of narrow escapes from looming CG airliners, all the episode’s director Bobby Roth had to work with were computer screens, some hallways and a shopping mall.  That made Scorpion seem a lot more routine this time around, and so did the boilerplate CBS procedural script by Co-Executive Producer David Foster.  There was an attempt to humanize Walter by introducing his sister, who suffers from MS, and we learned that Toby was a compulsive gambler who hasn’t gotten over being dumped by his fiancee, but that was about it for characterization.

The episode’s storyline had the Governor of California’s daughter stricken with a virus custom-designed to kill her, which the attacker signaled with a virus on her computer.  Walter, of course, cracked the code of both, and was able to save the Governor’s daughter and some unseen other children who were targeted because their parents, like the Governor before his political life began, had worked for a drug company that stopped development of a medication that could have saved the villain’s own child.  Naturally, this was all supposed to tie in with Walter’s feelings about his ill sister (and as it turned out, Gallo’s memories of his deceased daughter), but it felt pretty perfunctory.

For a series that’s meant to revolve around a group of literal geniuses, Walter and his mates didn’t do anything particularly amazing that the teams of any other high-tech TV procedural couldn’t have pulled off.  There was much staring at screens and having Eureka! moments when a pattern in a piece of code was detected, but meanwhile the bad guy couldn’t be troubled to erase the files on his own computer, and it all ended with a ludicrous sequence where the Governor walked through that mall in broad daylight to face his daughter’s assailant and no one even noticed him.  The episode’s big set-piece was a semi-comic interlude where germophobe Sylvester freaked out as he had to make  his way through a (perfectly safe) biohazard lab.

Scorpion is slickly done, and the brief nods that it makes toward Walter, Paige and her son finding each other as a family are appealing, but this is thin stuff.  At best, it’s filler for a free hour, hardly a show worth following closely.  With a huge lead-in from The Big Bang Theory, Scorpion got off to a big start last week, and CBS will attempt to keep that up for the next several weeks, running Big Bang reruns as Scorpion‘s lead-in.  Eventually, though, CBS’s Thursday Night Football run will end, Big Bang will return home, and Scorpion‘s lead-in will be The Millers.  At that point, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that things will get a lot tougher for this mild procedural.


PILOT + 1:  Not the Highest IQ


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."