Limitless – New CBS-TV Series: Episodes 1 & 2

As Flo, the Progressive insurance gal might say –

Why are PED’s bad in Baseball, but good in the FBI?

I don’t know what to make of this show. Based on the original 2011 Limitless film, which I reviewed here, I was expecting a serious exercise in making the most with what you have. And if you haven’t enough of what it takes, then take something additional. That’s what Eddie Morra, played by Bradley Cooper did in the film.

In this new CBS TV series, also called Limitless – the lead character is Brian Finch, and he’s played by Jake McDorman. In his slacker, stoner way, he’s adrift in his life; a non-starter in almost everything. That is until he meets an old school chum — who is now a super successful investment banker. This guy takes note of Brian’s scruffy situation.

Here bro – just take this pill and you’ll be able to expand your mind exponentially. Trust me. This will fix you up in ways you hadn’t even dreamed of.

Of course it would and did.

The pill was NZT, and it was the same drug that Eddie Morra, who is now a Senator took back then. So Finch is now amazed about what he can do – which included rendering a diagnosis of his father’s illness. So it is no surprise that he wants more of these pills.

He heads back to his buddy’s flat and finds him not only dead, but apparently murdered. But he is able to find the stash. Two things happen, the FBI arrives at the same time, and Brian flees. He’s captured in the subway, and by the end of the first week, he’s been hired by the FBI as a consultant. No gun and no badge, but they need his brain power. He’s also limited to in-house work.

But there’s a catch to this wonder drug. It being the mother of all PEDs, it has a downside. Repetitive use of this drug might make you the smartest guy on the planet , but the drug will also kill you.

That is unless you have been inoculated. It just so happens that Eddie Morra has found Brian Finch. He offers the inoculation and the immunity to the drug’s negative and killing aspects in exchange for a promise. Brian may not tell any one about the inoculation. If it becomes known, then Eddie Morra would withhold the injections, and Finch would die an unimaginably horrible death.

So in the first episode which was somewhat serious, the show looked like it might have some legs. At least I thought so. But in the second episode the whole tenor of the show changed. It got goofy and went for laughs far too often.

Not dry and seriously funny like Red in The Blacklist. No, this Blacklist wannabe was like Red on speed. It wasn’t smart or clever, it became just silly.

Being sick of his file room location, Finch busts out by causing an interior wall made of drywall and plaster to implode. Of course he is able to provide some good intel on the single car accident and death of a widely known whistleblower. But he is sent back to HQ and is still kept under guard.

When it happens a second time – despite more valuable intel being provided, he is in danger of being sacked. Poor Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, as his boss Nasreen Pouran, is about to sack Brian, but his job is saved by his favorite FBI gal-pal Agent Rebecca Harris played by Jennifer Carpenter (below).

The show offers some special effects. In the movie, Cooper as Morra zipped around town in wildly accelerated, trippy sped up light show – kind of like what we got from Kubrick in his film classic 2001, so many years ago. What we got in the film Limitless has been described as an endless zoom.

In this show, we saw stuff like in the image above, which makes Brian appear to be running at a very high-speed. In Episode Two, we see Brian progress as he circles around Manhattan in either a city bus, or on foot with his movements shown by advancing dashes on the city map. Not quite fully low-tech, but not that interesting for the viewer.

Along with that – there’s the usual tropes of a FBI/Cop show – a boss or Captain who just doesn’t get it. A friendly woman cop or agent, and other agents or cops who resent the lead character because he’s smarter than they are.

I will close this review out by comparing Brian Finch to other ‘peculiar’ detective shows:

Elementary – a modern version of Sherlock Holmes. This Holmes ( played by Johnny Lee Miller) is quirky and strange but brilliant. But then there’s Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson. This series is in its 4th season.

MonkTony Shalhoub starred as Monk, an SF based detective with an obvious obsessive compulsive disorder that sometimes got in the way of solving a case. This show ran for 8 seasons and Mr. Shalhoub won an Emmy for this role.

Mind Games – The Edwards Brothers. Christian Slater as one of the brothers Ross – a slick con man. Steve Zahn as his brother Clark, a bi-polar genius who specialized in human behavior.

That's Steve Zahn as Clark Edwards in Mind Games on the bottom of the image

That’s Steve Zahn as Clark Edwards in Mind Games on the bottom of the image

While all of these shows aimed for serious, they used humor as an occasional way of lifting the mood. Now Brian Finch is not obsessive/compulsive, or truly peculiar, or really all that strange. He’s just way different when he’s ‘on the pill’, so to speak. That said, Limitless seems to be tacking from the other direction.

Brian: I know this will sound strange, but hear me out. To get a handle on this case we have to go back to the days of Genghis Khan....

Brian: I know this will sound strange, but hear me out. To get a handle on this case we have to go back to the days of Genghis Khan….

Finch is far too silly to be taken seriously, and his asides/narration is tedious at best. And watching Mastrantonio do a slow burn, week after week, as all clueless and frustrated police/FBI bosses do – won’t be fun.

For me, Limitless has reached the limit of my tolerance for bad TV. Adios.

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5 thoughts on “Limitless – New CBS-TV Series: Episodes 1 & 2

  1. A drama/action show I actually watched (a miracle in and of itself) and you’re saying adios? Seriously? I’ve been depending on you to keep me grounded for the tiny of things that I actually see and for which you write reviews. Now I’m on my own — a very scary thought for me!

    I had no idea this show is based on a movie, one I probably never would have seen because I rarely go for those kind of films. My wife is a huge Bradley Cooper fan, so I’m guessing that’s why we’re watching this. It does seem mildly derivative, so I think you’re spot-on with those other shows to which you’ve compared it. As I sat and watched the first two shows, I still can’t help but wonder just WHY all the main action characters always seem to be so young. You’re right that it’s always the older authority figures that are clueless.

    Great review, Mike. I guess I’ll just have to take it from here on my own now, though! – Marty

    • Thanks Marty.

      You know while B Cooper is the lead in the film, Robert De Niro is on hand as well.

      As for all the action figures appearing to be so young – let’s just say that from certain vantage points, younger becomes the operative word – and takes in most of the population.

      So, maybe we can expect a Snakes in the Grass post on Limitless in the future?

  2. I reached my limit halfway through the first episode. There are too many astounding shows to watch these days to waste my limited time on Limitless. I’m still hoping Blindspot will turn into a show worth watching long term, but that too looks hazy on the basis of the first two episodes. Have you watched “The Player?”

    • Blindspot started well. Then in Episode 2, he tells her to wait outside and for the second time in two weeks, she’s standing in the hall when the bad guy arrives – this time he’s coming up the stairs. I’m also tired of her looking so stressed out as she worries about her flash backs. At least the senior lady officer has not shown too many signs of the dumb captain syndrome.

      Started The Player and watched the first week and a good part of the second episode. Seems way too artificial for me. And almost assuredly will be repetitive.

      Speaking of too many good shows – Homeland and The Good Wife and The Affair, and Madam Secretary, and Quantico

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