The only thing missing from the opening scenes of CBS’ new program “Intelligence” was well, some intelligence. Opening scenes to the series “special premiere,” which came running, literally, directly on the heels of the number one scripted show in America—“NCIS,” were scenes of the primary character, (you guessed it) running, through the jungle, through brush, and into some highly unfriendly perps. Despite an easy berth for the premiere, Tues., Jan. 7, 2014, 8 p.m. in Houston (CST), “Intelligence” still bore the burden of introducing millions of viewers who stuck around (despite not having “NCIS: LA” to follow) to the primary characters and theme of the show known only as "that show that was going to follow the new "NCIS" tonight."
The only thing that was clear from the opening scenes was that you were already supposed to have known who everyone was. The show had some initial starts, one episode “Charming,” airing Nov. 15, 2013 and then another had a trial balloon on a “Special Premiere Tuesday,” Dec. 12, 2013. So tonight’s “special premiere” was actually CBS’ third time out of the box in hopes of drawing viewers. If you missed those first two previous premieres, visit cbs.com and watch them there.
To recap tonight’s broadcast basics, actor Josh Holloway who plays Gabriel Vaughn, the Lee Majors-type character (the guy with a great microchip in his brain), is also a producer of the show and brings with him a large viewer following from his work on “Lost.” Based on that show, CBS hoped that women would tune in and sigh loudly and men would think "Oh spy stuff, cool!" Except if you never saw “Lost” before, you just see another guy who reminds you of Lee Majors version 2.0. Veteran popular actress, Marg Helgenberger brings gravitas to a show on the world of research intelligence. She was strong enough in “CSI” to be believable as any agent who has a badge and belongs to a governmental crimefighting organization and this time she’s Lillian Stringer, the top woman in charge of the U.S. Cyber Command mythical governmental agency.
The ultra-secret project “Clockwork” connects an information superhighway directly into a human brain for full access. Gabriel Vaughn is the military warrior superhero in real-life battle who is now the perfect candidate for the implanted chip. With it, he can call upon his sixth sense skills to be the connectivity between all online data anywhere, anyplace, anytime, and to have some far-reaching premonitions and superhearing.
Those skills flew into motion tonight, which allowed him to save the Secret Service agent who gets shot on the first op out of the office, when her job was to protect him. Meghan Ory plays the unwilling Secret Service agent, Riley Neal, who had been vetted for months for a job for which she never applied, as Helgenberger tells her character.
Gabriel broodingly laments, reflects and is still searching for his wife, a CIA agent, who may or may not be dead and who may or may not have been a traitor to the United States. Every vision he has of this wife shows an unhappy and unattractive lady holding a big, honking rifle with a snarl to match her personality. Sounds like love to me.
Ory’s Riley Neal, or Gabriel’s “handler,” is a Secret Service agent whose personality is slightly like Teresa Lisbon from “The Mentalist,” also now an FBI agent, and the banter between Lisbon and Jane is likely a pattern for the banter between Neal and Vaughn.
Or, to take it one better, perhaps Neal and Gabriel are destined to have a Tony-and-Ziva or Deeks-and-Kenzi-type partner banter with the slight romantic edge to it. All this to say that someone needs to come up with some original characters that don’t all stem from Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, and they might actually draw an audience for a new show.
P. J. Byrne plays the hapless, hopeless, helpless son of the doctor who invented the chip implanted in Gabriel’s brain. Oh, boo hoo. He’s caught up in a plot to get daddy the neurosurgeon to plant his (maybe) defective second chip in the brain of a foreign agent candidate whose course for adventure is all planned out, if that chip makes it through initiation.
Michael Rady played Jameson, another Clockwork-worker who we’ll see more of in future shows. Tonight he wore thick glasses and a Thomas Gibson as ("Criminal Minds") Aaron Hotchner-style super stare (yawn). And if that was not banal enough, Elden Henson played lab tech and torque twister for Gabriel Vaughn’s chip brain, Amos Pembroke. Amos is a smart aleck with 1970s long hair (think Matthew Gray Gubler on "Criminal Minds" again here), overflowing atop a white lab coat. Pembroke’s lines in the opening sequences are tiresome, because viewers already have one wunderkind genius in a lab coat character they really like, who reigns above all others, and that’s Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette). And Amos is also a rat. Yawn. Again, it’s like a bad remix of a great show.
U.S. Cyber Command in Angel’s Bluff, VA looks much like the headquarters of the CIA offices, complete with seal on the rotunda floor. Marg Helgenberger plays Lillian Strand with a little too much intensity for this first showing but if anyone can pull an ensemble group together as a cast, she can, in time. So where did all this gobbledygook of a show come from?
Michael Seitzman created the series based very, very loosely on a book, “Phoenix Island,” by John Dixon, set to be published Jan. 21, 2014, by Simon & Schuster (a division of CBS). After tonight, a read of the book might well be in order to see what the real intent of the storyline actually was.
As soon as the show began, CBS.com initiated a Twitter-based conversation and invited viewers to join. That portal did not see very much traffic, all things considered. In the course of the show on the air, some 368 posts were shared via Twitter, if the CBS stat counters were right. In fairness, there may have been far more than that simply not showing up in real time on the web site.
The end of tonight’s premiere featured Amos, the corrupt lab technician, watching television on a couch, while next door, the foreign agent with the “defective chip” planted in her head was in a state of undetermined limbo, waiting to wake up. In the last scene of the show, the rogue human/robot agent lady wakes up, eyes wide open. Uh oh, that just set the premise for a revealing show arc. Yawn.
If the show doesn’t do a serious revamp in tone, plot, and substance, it will be among the ruins of good ideas gone cancelled. CBS is moving “Intelligence” to its new regular night next week, Monday, Jan. 13, so just in case you were thinking it was going to replace “NCIS:LA” on Tuesday nights, it’s not.
The plot is so formulaic, the actors so earnest and intense, that it is already wearisome. After all it’s international espionage going on and the safety of the country, blah blah. It’s just a show that’s bound to be one world crisis after another, all to be resolved in 47 easy minutes of television and some ultra-self-promoting other CBS ads for shows they hope we’ll also be watching.
The only thing worse than this show is “Person of Interest,” which is the other part of the Tuesday night drama sandwich, featuring a superhuman intelligent machine that was designed by the nerdy human babysitter, and chased up and down evil and good with a rotating series of ugly characters (yawn) served up by CBS.
Best dialogue of the night came at the end.
Gabriel (to Lillian): “I want to say thank you.”
Lillian (to Gabriel): “For what? This never happened.”
One could only wish.
To the question on CBS’s web site “What would you do with top-secret technology in your head?”, based on tonight’s premiere, the answer would be: Watch a rerun of “NCIS” instead or if you're a gamer, head over to the "real" Clockwork Games and Events in College Station and your time will be spent better.