Friday, January 16, 2015

TV Review - Scorpion

This is a new blog series. Once a month, I'll be posting a review of a television series I watch (or have watched, since once in a while I'll endeavor to write a critical review of a show I don't watch anymore). I'm open to suggestions as well. I watch about 40 TV shows a week, so there's a fair chance that if you suggest something, I've at least watched an episode or two (if it's on American broadcast channels; I don't watch quite as much on cable nor much at all outside the U.S.).

I'm kicking it off this month with one of my favorite new shows this season, Scorpion.

The show is loosely based on the real life of Walter O'Brien, a genius who founded Scorpion Computer Services. The Walter in the show is recruited--with a group of other geniuses--by Agent Cabe Gallo to consult with Homeland Security. The team is filled out by Sylvester, a "human calculator"; Toby, a world-class behaviorist; and Happy, a mechanical prodigy. And along the way, they pick up Paige, who, when we meet her, is a normal waitress with a genius son.

There are a lot of things I like about this show. I like watching them solve the problems. People who are smarter than I am have expressed some concern over the believability of their solutions, and they're probably right. They definitely stretch the limits of reality. But to be honest, I don't care. It's fun to watch.

I also like the pacing of the show. I was worried when I first saw trailers that it would be all blowing things up and crashing cars. And while there is a fair bit of that, there's substance to balance it out. There are slow periods of emotion and contemplation that really heighten the excitement of the action. There's quippy dialogue mixed with the brainy dialogue that's mixed with the action dialogue. (What exactly is action dialogue? You know, "Run!" "No!" "Look out!") And there's almost always a great, non-action ending that leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy.

Which brings me to the thing I like the most: the relationships between the characters. By themselves, the characters' quirks can be too much, especially Walter's emotional detachment and Sylvester's pile of phobias. But together, they balance. While Walter is the star of the show, Paige is the emotional center. And she brings out the best in the other characters. Suddenly it's not about an annoying trait, but how the character works through it. And it's about how they connect with the other characters, even though it's difficult for them to function socially. It almost always leads to me sniffling on the couch.

Are there negatives to it? Sure. It's got pretty standard procedural plotlines, with a problem-of-the-week that's solved in 45 minutes or less. As I mentioned before, it stretches reality in both the situations they find themselves in (they wind up in Bosnia in one episode) and the ways they solve them. But the negatives seem small compared to the positives, and it's worked its way up to one of my most highly anticipated shows each week.

Scorpion airs at 9:00 on Mondays on CBS.

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