Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Person of Interest'
Jim Caviezel sleep-walks through a pilot that should be more intriguing
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]
Show: "Person of Interest" (CBS)
The Pitch: "It's Jesus and Ben Linus in a CBS procedural version of Wim Wenders' 'The End of Violence.' The kids will love it!" Alternatively, "It's Batman, if Batman were catatonic and Benjamin Linus were Alfred." Alternatively, "It's a CBS procedural version of 'Midnight Cowboy' with Jim Caviezel as Joe Buck, Michael Emerson as Ratso."
Quick Response: Expectations are a bitch. Sit me down to watch something like "Unforgettable" and I don't expect it to be anything other than a garden variety CBS procedural and then when that's what it is? That's what it is. But if you sit me down in front of a J.J. Abrams-produced drama written by Jonah Nolan, I'm going to expect it to have a little heft. I'm going to expect it to have layers. I'm going to want it to be different from anything I've seen before. Instead, we've got something like the sort of procedural Philip K. Dick would have written, but only if he was in real economic trouble and he didn't want to waste any of his good ideas. This being an Abrams production, you keep waiting for the big mythology to set in, or for the Grand Questions to be asked. Nope. There a Machine. And it's spitting out future-crime data. And you're either going to be intrigued by The Machine or you're going to think The Machine isn't, on its own, enough to build a series around. You need characters. I can't tell you if Jim Caviezel is playing a big joke on viewers. He delivers every line, including a droning opening voiceover, in a flat, lifeless monotone and he sleepwalks through every second of the pilot, including his several action scenes. He's a black hole. He's dead air. But part of me thinks that this was a choice Caviezel made, an interpretation on playing a shell-shocked character with little to live for. If so, it's a bad choice and a director needed to coach sparks of life into the performance, at least one or two. Michael Emerson is twitchy and somewhat interesting as the mysterious Finch, but this isn't a character designed to be a series leading man and Caviezel forces that focus over to Emerson by default. The series needs somebody "normal," the counterpoint to the two oddball leads, even if it's just a prominent tertiary character. That is why Taraji P. Henson is so welcome for the three minutes she's on screen. She's just playing a cop who suspects there's something odd about Caviezel's character (because he's a zombie), but she's the only person in the pilot who speaks at a normal volume and in declarative, non-cryptic sentences. She's a human in a pilot that's lacking anything resembling a recognizable human. The series would be well advised not to waste too much time bringing Henson into the loop. Make her part of the team and then the weirdos can be as weird as they like. "Person of Interest" is yet another CBS drama pilot to make good use of New York City. And Natalie Zea, guest star in the pilot, makes all things better.
Desire To Watch Again: Oddly, my desire to watch "Person of Interest" again is high. But part of that is because I can't believe that the series could be as sterile and disconnected as the pilot was. I'm also gonna be mighty interested to see how audiences at Comic-Con respond to "Person of Interest" later this week.
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