I’ve been reading lately that a lot of people are describing Scorpion as a dramatized version of The Big Bang Theory. But the difference between the two shows is … one has bland characters, the other does not. See where I’m going with this?
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Scorpion, which incidentally will premiere after The Big Bang Theory, is a new CBS drama — inspired by a true story — about genius Walter O’Brien (Elyes Gabel) and his team of also-geniuses who are hired by Homeland Security to help stop a major catastrophe from happening. The man who brings them into the fold is Agent Cabe Gallo (Robert Patrick), someone whose life intersected with Walter’s years earlier — seen in the opening flashback of the pilot.
You’ve probably seen a diner in the promos for Scorpion. That’s because that setting is headquarters for much of what the team has to do. But even before Gallo puts the team together, the first scene taking place in present time is at the diner, where Walter is on his laptop. I’m not sure why he’s there in the first place. But it allows us to be introduced to one of the waitresses, Paige Dineen, played by American Idol and Smash alum Katharine McPhee; she has a nine-year-old son who she says is challenged.
The other members of Walter’s team are Sylvester (Ari Stidham), Happy Quinn (Jadyn Wong) and Toby (Eddie Kaye Thomas). The writers have tried giving many of them certain quirks or other characteristics to make them stand out. For example, Sylvester appears to be a germaphobe and has OCD, and Toby provides a lot of the humor on the show. Gallo says this group consists of a mechanical progeny (Happy Quinn), a world-class shrink (Toby) and a human calculator (Sylvester). “Brilliant minds working at half-capacity,” he says.
But this group doesn’t really stand out a whole lot to me. Many of the characters feel rather bland.
A show can have as many grand sets or action scenes as it wants, but if we don’t feel attached to the characters, who should be the core of the show, then what’s the point? I bring this up because after watching the pilot, what stands out to me the most is the big action sequence towards the end, not the characters.
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Aside from the diner, you’ve also probably seen an airplane graze the side of a building in the promos. That’s part of the sequence I’m talking about. Gallo brings Walter and Co. on board because they have the ability to fix a bug in the LAX software that’s caused communications to break down, so pilots up in the air aren’t able to communicate with air traffic control.
Gallo tells Walter’s team (named Scorpion), “You wanna do something meaningful? Here’s your chance. You don’t, people in metal will be falling from the sky in less than two hours. It’s your call.” Such pressure.
Walter doesn’t need to go to LAX to work his magic; all he needs is a reliable Internet connection, so they go to the diner mentioned earlier. This is where Paige ends up becoming a bigger character than it first appears she’ll be. She gets to interact with the team and, along the way, finds out more about her son than she realized. It becomes obvious that what they’re setting up here is that Paige will learn from them and they will learn from her.
And as the situation gets more tense, Paige ends up inserting herself into the conversation; her viewpoint comes from the heart — she doesn’t want to see all those people up in the air die. But again, I don’t really feel any attachment with any of these characters enough to care. I just want to get back to the action.
And, boy, is there some action. The lengths that they go to to try and stop the plane from crashing is astounding. (Can they pull it off? Watch tonight’s premiere to find out.) It’s a scene straight out of a James Bond movie, or any other huge action/adventure film, for that matter. It all culminates in two of the characters driving a very expensive car on the runway at LAX with a plane just above them. I’ll leave it at that because it really is a fantastic scene that you should see for yourself, though you can check out a preview of it in the below trailer:
If I were to base the quality of Scorpion just on the climax, I’d say it’s a must-watch show. (Because, frankly, there are some moments of that storyline that are just plain fun to watch.) But we can’t do that. Especially since it’s doubtful that a scene like that will happen in every episode. The series is unlikely to live up to it over the rest of the season. And the reason goes back to what I said earlier: if the characters can’t hold their own, then the show doesn’t have much legs to stand on.
Not even Paige stands out all that much. The only reason she does even a little bit is because the actress playing her is Katharine McPhee, and that’s only because we all recognize her from American Idol and Smash. Since I was a fan of hers on Idol, I’m always rooting for her with every project she does — especially Smash. That series lasted two seasons. I doubt Scorpion will last beyond its first season.
Will you be tuning in to Scorpion? Are you intrigued by the premise? And what do you think the ratings will be like?
Scorpion premieres tonight at 9pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)