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Crowd-sourcing as a way to solve crime?
That’s the premise of CBS’ forthcoming drama Wisdom of the Crowd, which stars Jeremy Piven as a visionary tech innovator creates a cutting-edge crowd-sourcing app to solve his daughter’s murder and revolutionizes crime solving in the process. He and his team then go out and solve other crimes while Piven’s character continues the season-long (or possibly more) search for the person who took his daughter’s life.
When speaking with reporters Tuesday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, writer and showrunner Ted Humphrey admitted, “It’s an idea that, honestly, scared the hell out of me” when he discussed adapting the Israeli format for American audiences. One thing that made the job tougher was the events of the past year, particularly the rise of fake news and conspiracy theorists. We’ve seen “the ying and the yang of the internet if you will,” he said. “We’re not gonna shy away from that in the show. We’re going to show both sides” of the crowd-sourcing app.
While Monica Potter, who plays Piven’s character’s ex-wife on the series, said “it would be great” if there was a rise in such vigilantes who take crime solving into their own hands, both Piven and Humphrey were more even-handed about the positives and negatives that come with that.
“The worst version of this is the Boston Marathon. The worst version is when people on their own take things into their own hands and start looking for people,” Humphrey said.
“It is scary,” Piven added. “I think we’re playing with something that feels very authentic and it’s very accessible.”
Humphrey said it’s all the more important to address the possible pitfalls of such a system at a time when there are “various police departments” across the country looking into setting up similar programs. “It’s a cutting-edge idea that has a lot of flaws — potential flaws, I should say — and a lot of potential blind alleys,” said the showrunner. “The entire world is changing in ways that we, sitting here, don’t understand. … The show in some ways is an attempt to kind of address that.”
Wisdom of the Crowd will address that through the characters and their own missteps along the way. “Will there be instances where they overstep their bounds? Yes,” Humphrey said.
Rather than “burying our heads in the sand to say this would never happen,” he said the better approach is to address it “while acknowledging the dark aspects of it.”
Humphrey also pointed to the addition of Richard T. Jones’ character, a police detective who helps the rest of Piven’s character’s team solve the crimes of the week. “When guided by a police detective to channel their efforts toward a direction … then it can be useful,” he said.
However, the series will also deal with the country’s current mistrust of police officers. “Of course he’s one of the heroes of our show, but that doesn’t mean the entire police department conducts itself appropriately,” Humphrey said. “We want to delve into all of the things that are headlines today in terms of how police are viewed. I don’t think you’re prohibited from doing that just because you’re telling a story with a policeman at the heart of the story.”
Wisdom of the Crowd is set to debut Sunday, Oct. 1, at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
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