The network television theme du jour seems to be “man-machines” or “machine-men” (AKA: The Six Million Dollar Man turns up in the 21st Century!) Fox’s new cop show Almost Human plays with this theme by creating an “almost human” android partnered with a tortured shell (lost humanity?) who has a synthetic leg. Now comes CBS’s mid-season series Intelligence, starring Josh Holloway as an intelligence agent with a billions-of-dollars microchip implanted in his brain.
Premiering earlier this month, Intelligence is, at its heart, a fairly standard-grade CBS procedural drama. Brooding/tormented/brilliant male lead, check. Female sidekick/provocateur/potential love interest (Megan Ohry, Once Upon a Time), check. Perpetually annoyed superior (Marg Helgenberger), check, check, and double check.
I didn’t dislike the show; I found the premise intriguing, and I don’t mind ’70s TV tropes being reinvented for our century. The possibilities for character exploration are endless, and for interesting forays into social commentary (which the best sci-fi often does). I’m not sure, however, this series is designed quite to “go there.” Yes, Holloway’s character mourns the tragic death of his young daughter (his marriage fell apart in the aftermath), and I really like Ohry’s kick-ass, badass secret service agent on a mission she’s not quite on board with. But the dialogue is standard issue, plug and play procedural. And that’s what I’m afraid of going forward.
Whether that’s necessarily a bad thing, I don’t know, but I believe it’s a matter of taste. Is it going to be the kind of series during which I can multitask, while keeping one eye poised on my TV screen? Or will it build into something that demands I pay close attention, figuring out the intricacies, not only of the case but of the characters? Right now, I’m thinking more the former than the latter.
Again, not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, I love the complex and layered, puzzles within puzzles within character studies and laced with conspiracies and provocative food for thought. But I also like the straightforward. So I’ll keep on watching and see how it all plays out. Right now, I’m kinda preferring FOX’s Almost Human, but we’ll see.
Intelligence airs on CBS Monday nights.