TV Series Review
Oh, how we love our troubled TV geniuses. Call them, if you will, the "brilliant buts."
Consider some of the most famous television sleuths of the 21st century. Monk: brilliant but OCD. House: brilliant but a big ol' jerk. Sherlock: brilliant but a recovering drug addict.
They solve the crime and save the day while driving everyone around them a little nuts. (Kind of like my editor.) These guys and others like them have become increasingly popular with viewers (who only have to put up with them once a week for an hour or so), and the copycats are now nearly endless. Pretty soon everyone on TV will be a genius with autism or social myopia or really horrific table manners.
And that must be why Scorpion decided to not stop with just one "brilliant but" character, goosing the show with a gaggle of "brilliant but" folks. If one Monk is a hit, why, four would surely bring in Super Bowl-type numbers!
Don't Get Smart With Me!
Scorpion is supposedly inspired by real-life brilliant people—surprising, given the show's inherent sense of the outlandish. Walter O'Brien leads this elite, government-employed geek squad. He has a 197-point IQ (we know because he tells us), a Holmesian knack for observation and is, naturally, clueless when it comes to dealing with others. His crew includes Happy Quinn, an angry mechanical prodigy; Sylvester Dodd, an OCD "human calculator"; and Toby Curtis, a behavioral specialist with what was, early on,an out-of-control gambling problem. Together, they have a combined IQ of nearly 700 (we know because they tell us) and the social skills of a rabid dachshund. But as viewers, naturally, we're expected to like them anyway.
And there are reasons to like them. They do, after all, use their considerable brain power to save people, despite the fact that the people they're saving aren't as smart as they are. And they're even making efforts to communicate with non-Mensa members, bringing in former waitress Paige Dineen to serve as a translator of sorts. She has no special qualifications to be on this elite team except that she's the mother of a troubled genius and, I suspect, Walter thinks she's kinda pretty.
Putting Brain Power to the Bugs
I'd like to like this show more than I do, because it's less problematic than many. There's action, but not a ton of gory violence. (It's hard to get into too many knife fights when you spend most of your time in front of a computer.) But these characters break the law all the time. I just can't keep from wondering if all these "brilliant but" characters might cause the bright folks watching—some of them still kids—to say, "Hey, smart people don't have to be nice or obey the law! As long as I repeat my IQ often enough, I can dispense with all sorts of social norms." (You know, like ever looking up from my smartphone.)
And, ironically, this smart show can feel pretty dumb.
In the pilot episode, a virus has been inserted into the Los Angeles airport's computer system, making it impossible for planes to communicate with the tower and get automated help with their landings or some such thing. To get everything back up and running, our "brilliant but" team must snag an uncorrupted version of the software from a flight currently still flying—but to do so, they'll need to physically hook a laptop to the airplane's control board to download it. To achieve this, the team calls the plane with a cellphone, and then Walter and Paige commandeer a Ferrari and drive underneath the low-flying craft on a cleared runway as a pilot dangles from the landing gear and spools an all-too-short cable to the speeding car below.
"This is our only chance!" Walter exclaims.
OK, so wait. Even without the automated software, the pilot found the runway just fine to fly 20 feet above it. Seems like landing the thing wouldn't have been too hard after that. Couldn't have they just touched down and then let someone stroll onboard to download the info to flash drive?
'Course, maybe that's just me being dense. After all, I'm not nearly as smart as Walter.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Elyes Gabel as Walter O'Brien; Katharine McPhee as Paige Dineen; Eddie Kaye Thomas as Toby Curtis; Jadyn Wong as Happy Quinn; Ari Stidham as Sylvester Dodd; Robert Patrick as Agent Cabe Gallo