The Series Premiere of “Limitless” – A ‘Cop’-Out


I liked the movie Limitless. It received a lot of mixed reviews and wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was fun, had an interesting premise, and Bradley Cooper’s performance was top-notch. However, the jury’s still out after watching the series premiere of “Limitless” – which I’ll put in quotations to differentiate between movie and the series.

For those who don’t know, “Limitless” is a television series that serves are a sort of sequel to the Limitless movie that came out in 2011. It follows a different character that exists in the same world as Bradley Cooper’s character, and I’m assuming it seeks to answer the questions that were left around by the movie.

It’s way too soon to make any sort of judgement call on the series, but it left a lot to be desired.

The Premise is NOT Based on Science

First and foremost, the whole “we only access 10% of our brain” theory that movies like Limitless and Lucy are based around is highly disproven and entirely fictional. Do a simple Google search, sit in on a couple college psychology classes, or just skim a neurology textbook and you’ll find out just how wrong it is.

“Limitless” tries to avoid this by using a different bit of science, saying neurons are created whenever we create a memory and that forgetfulness is a result of us losing the ability to access those neurons. While this is somewhat based in fact, it’s still highly misrepresentative of reality and completely ignores that neurons do die.

Hate to break it to you, but every moment in your life IS NOT stored away in your brain.

Personally, the scientific inaccuracies take me out of the story a bit, but I still liked the movie even though it was based on the same premise. A story doesn’t have to be scientifically accurate to be engrossingly entertaining.

That being said, let’s cover the good before I get into the not-so-good.

The Good

  1. A Nice Self-Contained Story

All the plot points started in the pilot get wrapped up by the episode’s end. Of course there are still some major questions left up in the air, the same questions that were left over from the movie, but all the conflict introduced in the beginning is solved before the credits roll. It serves as a nice mini-movie of sorts, a condensed retelling of Limitless in a way. It’s almost like a recap for people who didn’t see the movie or forgot its premise.

You could watch this episode and walk away satisfied without having to watch any more, and that’s nice for the audience even if it isn’t good for CBS.

  1. It’s a True Sequel

I thought this would be a reboot of sorts, but it actually continues after the movie. The main character is a different person, not someone being recast in Bradley Cooper’s old role. It’s a risky move, especially for a movie with mixed reviews, but I do hope it pans out and makes more networks take a look at continuing some of our favorite movies on the small screen. (Although at the same time I’m not a fan of anything that inhibits originality, so it’s a bit of a Catch 22.)

The Not-So-Good

  1. The Two Lead Performances

Please notice that I’m calling this section “The Not-So-Good” and not “The Bad”. I didn’t think Jake McDorman and Jennifer Carpenter were bad, but they both left something to be desired.

You’ll probably remember Jennifer from a little role she played on Dexter as Debra Morgan. While Debra was one of my favorite characters on the show, even on Dexter I found her performance a bit flat at times – like she was forcing the dialogue through. I felt that way during this pilot too. Her acting came across more forced than organic, ruining the believability. It felt like I was watching Debra Morgan play a character.

She has shown she has acting chops though. Some of the most powerful scenes in Dexter come from her performance, and she wasn’t really given much besides exposition to work with in this pilot. Hopefully she’ll relax into the role over the next couple of episodes and be given a bit more to work with.

I haven’t seen Jake in much beyond a few cameos here and there. While I think he was passable in the pilot, he sort of fell flat at times too. To be fair though, the show does him no favors whatsoever. You’re going to compare him with Bradley Cooper and the Oscar nominated actor is going to win every time. He may not be the exact same character, but he’s pretty much playing the same character.

No one really stood out in the pilot, but it was just a pilot. A lot of shows don’t start off well but evolve quickly into some of the best on television. (For example, I hated The Flash pilot but love the show now.) The actors weren’t bad, they just weren’t great either. You’re not going to come back purely for the acting, but I think the talent is there for them to rise to the occasion.

  1. The Story is a ‘Cop’-out

In a comment I posted earlier today, I talked about lazy writing when referring to myself. Cop dramas are a prime example of lazy writing. Making your main character a cop or “consultant” is an easy way to churn out a serialized TV series and I’m sick of it.

The plot point is tacked on at the end like the writer spontaneously remembered he was writing for a TV show and not a short film. Can we please get a little more imaginative?

Don’t get me wrong, some of my favorite shows have used this device. Grimm, Castle, Brooklyn Nine-Nine –that last one doesn’t really count, but you get the point. (Toby didn’t have to stop driving an ambulance!)

Like I said before, the pilot was essentially a condensed version of the movie. I’m willing to chalk it up to the need for a recap of sorts, but the cop bit tacked on at the end was uninteresting and unimaginative. Combine the ending with the super-exposition heavy dialogue and the story is mediocre at best.

Overall – Meh

I still liked the show well enough to continue watching, but it’s got some ground to make up. I’m giving the first episode a pass as being a re-cap of sorts, but if the next one doesn’t pull me in then I doubt I’ll last beyond half of the first season.

Although I felt the same way about Person of Interest – which I stopped watching halfway through the first season – and people seem to love it. So what the hell do I know, right?


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