May 4, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Person Of Interest”


It’s not paranoia if they really are after you, as the saying goes, and CBS’s PERSON OF INTEREST, a well-styled, relatively intelligent and ambitious action drama about mega-surveillance computer programs that trafficked in paranoia, in the end fell victim to a system larger than itself:  the new broadcast network ecosystem, in which it’s increasingly hard for a network to justify paying large license fees for series it doesn’t at least co-own internally, unless a given show (think The Big Bang Theory or Modern Family) is a huge ratings hit.  Person was a reliable performer, as strong as several in-house series still on CBS’s air, but not a breakout hit, and entirely owned by Warner Bros Television.  As a result, the network ordered a truncated 13-episode 5th stanza, pushed its start to the very end of the 2015-16 season, and then announced the show’s cancellation before those episodes even started airing.

That memorial season began tonight, and next week CBS will burn off the remaining episodes twice per week through May, slowing the pace for the final few in June.  The opening hour, written by showrunner Greg Plageman and staff writer Tony Camerino, and directed by Chris Fisher, put the emphasis more on action than plotting.  It picked up where the Season 4 finale had left off (after almost exactly a year off the air, a “Previously On” recap might have been nice) and followed our heroes–computer genius Finch (Michael Emerson), former government assassin Reese (Jim Caviezel), sociopathic hacker Root (Amy Acker), and once-corrupt NYPD detective Fusco (Kevin Chapman)–as they attempted to elude the forces of evil super-computer system Samaritan and protect their own more benign super-computer system The Machine.

The only villains glimpsed in the episode were faceless minions, mostly mowed down by Reese and/or Root, and the main goal was to keep Samaritan online in its portable version as its battery life trickled away, with the big finale being a let’s-put-on-a-show makeshift reboot of its decompressed system on our heroes’ converted subway train.  There wasn’t much opportunity for the show’s often sly humor, or even for interaction among the leads, who were in separate parts of the city most of the time.  The episode mostly served as an overture to whatever the Season 5 plot is going to be.  The regulars, though, were all in solid form, with Emerson given the best material as he grappled in flashback with the humanity of his invention, and Fisher brought off the shootouts with panache.

As Scorpion has become more of a comic-book Bones clone in its 2d season, with our wacky genius heroes saving the world from some wild disaster each week, and Supergirl has proved itself so-so at best both creatively and in the ratings (the latter is another Warners show), and with The Good Wife bidding us adieu and the rest of the CBS drama schedule relying mostly on recycled franchises, the craft and wit of Person Of Interest will be missed.  Even The Machine, it turns out, has more compassion than a broadcast network these desperate days.

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."