Take Me to the Pilots '16: CBS' 'Pure Genius'

Pure Genius - H 2016
Sonja Flemming/CBS

[I'll remind you at the top of every single one of these: These entries are not reviews. They're gut reactions to not-for-air pilots that could change in big and small ways between now and September or October or midseason. Full reviews will come then. They'll be longer. And more carefully considered. The opinions may even change. Who knows?]

Show: Pure Genius (CBS)
The Pitch: Dr. Scorpion
Quick Response: Distanced from viewer expectations regarding what a show from creator Jason Katims (Parenthood) is supposed to look or feel like, Pure Genius isn't bad, but rather just a poorly focused CBS-style medical procedural using enough whimsically outlandish technological futurism that it could evolve into a TV version of Fantastic Voyage by the third episode. And I'd rather watch that show than Pure Genius, especially given that Katims' name brings with it expectations of humor and emotional depth that Pure Genius mostly lacks. What it has is cool gizmos, well-performed skepticism from Dermot Mulroney, a decent-but-underused supporting cast and several themes that get underlined over and over again including the Vocational Irony Narrative regarding a tech billionaire (Augustus Prew's James Bell) who has spent untold millions to recruit a team to cure others, when what really needs curing, literally and metaphorically, is him. Or something. I don't know what to do about Augustus Prew (which rhymes, but it's also true — and that rhymes, too). The British actor looks generally uncomfortable and wooden and his accent waxes and wanes, but mostly stays in the vicinity of "Guy from elitist New Hampshire prep school you want to punch in the face." Leaving aside its inconsistency, that could be exactly the accent Prew is going for and he could be trying to look uncomfortable at every moment, but if that's true, the show has made a tactical error, because James isn't a charming and enigmatic billionaire. He's just a somewhat annoying guy who gives everybody else access to toys and talks in a way that may or may not run counter to his backstory. So it's either a good performance and a bad character or a bad performance and probably a bad character. Either way, he's a miss. And because the pilot has too many medical cases that aren't treated with any depth, we end up with five or six supporting characters who don't have time to generate interest, plus Odette Annable to make me wish I was watching House.
Desire to Watch Again: Meh. The Pure Genius pilot isn't as "good" as CBS' Code Black pilot from last year, but it's probably also more likely to be successful, but it's better than CBS' Bull pilot this year and less likely to be successful. None of this means anything, of course. I like Jason Katims. I wanted this to be better. I'll give it at least one more episode to see if it can be.

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