You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Wisdom of the Crowd,’ Starring Jeremy Piven

A new CBS drama solves crimes through crowd-sourced investigation and surveillance

Jeremy Piven, Richard T. Jones, Natalia Tena, Monica Potter, Blake Lee, Jake Matthews

Wisdom of the Crowd” is about wealthy Silicon Valley businessman Jeffrey Tanner (Jeremy Piven)’s decision to give up his career in order to devote himself to an online, networked crime investigation platform called Sophe. In practice, Sophe is essentially Reddit — a community of amateur sleuths eager to get to the bottom of open mysteries, and sharing evidence with each other via their phones  — but “Wisdom of the Crowd” makes Sophe’s headquarters a glossy, sophisticated hivemind. Piven throws himself into the role with an abandon that is really not at all necessary: He crosses his arms and paces, he shouts, he breaks the rules.

Broadcast procedurals that put way too much faith in technology are nothing new; last year’s “Bull,” also on CBS, features Michael Weatherly solving crimes in a remarkably similar way. But even with that in mind, it’s breathtaking how wholeheartedly enthusiastic “Wisdom of the Crowd” is about the rather controversial notion of total social surveillance. “Bull” presents its protagonist as a man who cannot wholly be relied on, and his tactics are used behind-the-scenes to enhance his courtroom questioning. In “Wisdom of the Crowd,” mob justice is just plain justice. At the end of the pilot, several Sophe users at a train station identify a passenger as the current suspect. They surround him with their phones up, relentlessly filming him, until police come to arrest him; it’s like the end of “Black Mirror’s” episode “White Bear,” except distressingly unironic. There is no discussion whatsoever about what his rights might be in that situation; the Sophe users don’t even know if he’s guilty or just a person of interest. And yet their cornering of their prey is served to the audience as a triumph, for Sophe and Jeffrey, and the public at large.

And beyond the curiously Big-Brother-friendly themes, “Wisdom of the Crowd” is just a rehash of drama tropes. In grim procedural tradition, Jeffrey’s motivation is driven by a personal tragedy; his daughter’s murderer was never found, and he is partly using Sophe to try to track down that still at-large killer. There’s also a subplot with his ex-wife, Alex (Monica Potter), and the long-suffering sighs of actual detective Tommy Cavanaugh (Richard T. Jones), the only sympathetic character in the pilot.

If “Wisdom of the Crowd” finds a way back towards investigating the complexity of solving crimes through social media, it could become a sturdy enough procedural; Piven’s Jeffrey is a character practically itching to be a little evil. But based on the pilot, the show is pursuing a less nuanced approach.

TV Review: 'Wisdom of the Crowd,' Starring Jeremy Piven

Drama, pilot reviewed: CBS, Sun. Oct. 1, 8 p.m. 60 min.

Crew: Executive producers, Ted Humphrey, Adam Davidson, Avi Nir, Alon Shtruzman, Peter Traugott, Rachel Kaplan, Dror Mishani, Shira Hadad

Cast: Jeremy Piven, Richard T. Jones, Natalia Tena, Monica Potter, Blake Lee, Jake Matthews

More TV

  • Super Bowl LII - Tom Brady,

    Verizon Plans Multiple Ad Plays Leading to Super Bowl Commercial

    If Verizon gets its way, its Super Bowl advertising plans will include a 60-second commercial during the game – and a half-hour documentary that gives viewers even more of what will be discussed in the ad. The telecommunications giant is often scrutinized for the communications resources it provides its customers, but its Super Bowl campaign [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce

    Mj Rodriguez, Nico Santos to Announce GLAAD Media Award Nominations

    Mj Rodriguez and Nico Santos are set to announce the nominees for the 30th annual GLAAD Media Awards. The “Pose” star and “Crazy Rich Asians” funny man will make the announcement during a live-stream from the AT&T Hello Lounge at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Jan. 25. More Reviews Film Review: 'Don't Come Back [...]

  • Naomi Watts

    Naomi Watts to Star in Jason Blum-Produced Quibi Series 'Wolves and Villagers' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Naomi Watts has been cast in the lead role in the upcoming Quibi series “Wolves and Villagers,” Variety has learned exclusively. The exact plot of the short-form series is being kept under wraps, but Quibi co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg has previously described the show as “Fatal Attraction 2.0.” Jason Blum is executive producing the series, with [...]

  • HBO's 'Breslin And Hamill' Documentary Drops

    HBO's 'Breslin And Hamill' Documentary Drops Trailer

    “Revolutionary,” “superstars,” “the voice of true New Yorkers” — that’s how Spike Lee and other influential figures describe journalists Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill in the trailer released for HBO’s “Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists” documentary. The film, which premieres Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, follows the two newspaper columnists whose dedication and wit [...]

  • Riverdale Chapter Twenty-Six

    TV News Roundup: 'Riverdale' Sets 'Heathers' Musical Episode

    In Thursday’s roundup, “Riverdale” is set to tackle “Heathers: The Musical,” and Freeform has announced its second annual summit. DATES  More Reviews Film Review: 'Don't Come Back from the Moon' Palm Springs Review: 'Carlos Almaraz: Playing With Fire' The musical episode of the CW’s “Riverdale,” featuring nine songs, will air Wednesday, March 20 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content