TV Review: ‘Scorpion’

Elyes Gabel, Robert Patrick, Katharine McPhee, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jadyn Wong, Ari Stidham

Given the fortune CBS is spending on license fees for “The Big Bang Theory,” the network can be forgiven for trying to expand the show’s geek-chic vibe to its procedural-drama wheelhouse. So while “Scorpion” might boast factual inspiration (a true nerdy computer prodigy!), one needn’t be a genius to see this for what it is: an effort to create a hybrid version of “Mission: Impossible” and Sherlock Holmes with a team of brainy problem-solvers. Provided “the full resources of the U.S. government” to thwart appropriately ornate crimes, the participants in this mildy fun yet wholly disposable exercise would be wise not to dwell on calculating their chances of network survival.

Team leader Walter O’Brien (Elyes Gabel) is introduced as a child, albeit one who brings the authorities descending onto his pastoral home by hacking into NASA.

Flash forward, and he’s put together a group of like-minded folk with genius IQs and the expected tics, including one dubbed a “human calculator.” This would be a handier skill in a pinch, frankly, if everyone didn’t already have an actual calculator on their mobile phones.

Walter and company are soon drafted into service by FBI agent Cabe Gallo (Robert Patrick), a grizzled veteran trying to prevent a plot that will cause airplanes to begin dropping from the sky. In essence, the assignment morphs “It Takes a Thief” into “It Takes a Hacker,” producing one genuinely cool stunt that involves a low-altitude plane , and leads to the retention of the gang as a strategic response team — Homeland Security’s inhouse think tank (hardly a spoiler, since there would be no series otherwise).

The pilot also brings in what amounts to a set of ordinary eyes to marvel at Walter and company — Paige (Katharine McPhee), the single mom of a gifted son whose impenetrable brilliance has been misdiagnosed before Walter meets him. There’s an element of sweetness in that, offset slightly by its inherent manipulativeness and familiarity.

In terms of scheduling strategy, “Scorpion” moves into an hour where CBS’ comedies had been fading, but it still looks like a tall order for the show to gain much of a ratings toehold there. And while there’s something to be said for the brilliant inheriting the Earth, the series feels a little soft for a network with so many chalk-outline hours.

Then again, as one member of the group says during a tension-filled moment, quoting Han Solo to C3PO (naturally), “Never tell me the odds!”

Popular on Variety

TV Review: 'Scorpion'

(Series; CBS, Mon. Sept. 22, 9 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by CBS Television Studios.

Crew: Executive producers, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Nick Santora, Nicholas Wootton, Justin Lin, Heather Kadin, Scooter Braun, Walter O’Brien; director, Lin; writer, Santora; camera, Gyula Pados; production designer, Brad Ricker; editors, Dylan Highsmith, Steven Sprung; music, Brian Tyler, Tony Morales; casting, Denise Chamian. 60 MIN.

Cast: Elyes Gabel, Robert Patrick, Katharine McPhee, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jadyn Wong, Ari Stidham

More TV

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Viacom Channels Grab 'Seinfeld' Cable Rerun

    Viacom Channels Grab 'Seinfeld' Cable Rerun Rights

    Viacom has sealed a deal with Sony Pictures Television for the cable rights to “Seinfeld” starting in October 2021. The deal comes on the heels of a blockbuster new deal between Sony and Netflix for the streaming rights to the beloved NBC sitcom that also begins in 2021. “Seinfeld” reruns have been a staple of [...]

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

  • Elite Season 2

    San Sebastian: Spain’s SVOD Players Debate Competition, Brand, Talent

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — Executives from HBO, Netflix, Amazon and Movistar+ and “Elite” co-creator Darío Madrona took to the stage to field questions on the Global Impact of Spanish Series. Here, briefly, are five takeaways: 1.Spain First “La Casa de Papel” was watched by 34,355,956 Netflix accounts over its first seven days,  after a July 19 [...]

  • Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers

    Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers From Skipping Fox Ad Breaks

    Fox is hoping to knit together the seconds-long divide between a TV program and the commercials that support it. During ad breaks for a few football broadcasts, tomorrow’s run of the Emmys and Wednesday’s season premiere of “The Masked Singer,” the network will kick off ad sessions with special show promos that display artistic renderings [...]

  • Patria

    HBO Europe Unveils ‘Patria’ Footage to Captive San Sebastian Audience

    SAN SEBASTIAN — Amid large expectation, HBO Europe has revealed first footage giving a first sense of tone and pace of its Spanish original series “Patria.” A packed-to-overflowing press conference on Saturday morning at the San Sebastian Festival can be read as one sign of the potential popularity of the eight-part series. The panel sneak-peek [...]

  • Topic Studios

    Layoffs Hit Topic Studios as TV Division Relocates to West Coast (EXCLUSIVE)

    A small round of layoffs has hit Topic Studios this week in the television division, insiders familiar with the company told Variety. One of the insiders said three executives at the New York-based producer and distributor are out: senior vice president of scripted programming and Viacom alum Lisa Leingang, vice president of development Mona Panchal [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content