Nov 19, 2015

[TV] Scorpion: Season 1

When it comes to most popular movies and television, intelligent characters are inevitably socially awkward. The few who end up being all suave and debonair also tend to be hyper intelligent villains who act as masterminds for great plots. Needless to say, the popular stereotype is not at all flattering to actual geniuses and people of higher intelligence, but they're not exactly a loud enough segment of the population to change things.

Scorpion falls into that category of it being so bad, it's almost sort of good. And while I wouldn't go as far as saying it's something great, but it is the sort of low-barrier entertainment that one can watch while cooking dinner or something. And I know that's a weird example, but I've actually done just that on a number of occasions.

Sure, we can totally get all worked up about how this portrayal of geniuses is quite terrible and even their fields of expertise seem a tad questionable, but that's life. But entertainment is entertainment and you can choose to feel badly about almost anything or you can just roll with things.

Synopsis: Scorpion is CBS drama series created by Nick Santora. The show is loosely based on the life of Walter O'Brien. The first season ran for a total of 22 episodes with the second season already mid-way through things as of the time of this blog post.

As the show's title sequence explains, the titular Team Scorpion is a company composed of geniuses who take on special projects. Leading the team is Walter O'Brian (Elyes Gabel), a child computer prodigy who tested as having one of the highest IQ scores in the world. And their main client is the US government through the US Department of Homeland Security because of the efforts of Agent Cabe Gallo (Robert Patrick). Thus Scorpion is now a special team that uses their genius to deal with various high technology threats that threaten the country and then some.

The team consists of other geniuses with different areas of specialization. Toby Curtis (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is a behavioral psychiatrist who has a knack for reading people and gleaning insights into their character. Happy Quinn (Jadyn Wong) is a mechanical engineer who can fix or fabricate pretty much anything. And then there's Sylvester Dodd (Ari Stidham), who is a mathematician and statistician who copes with a lot of anxiety and OCD. By the end of the first episode, the team includes Paige Dineen (Katharine McPhee), a single mother who works as a waitress who ends up helping the team interact with other people better. She also has a nine year old genius son, Ralph (Riley B. Smith) and in return for her help the team will help her better understand her son.

Every time the opening credits roll, I cringe at how Paige is described as being different from the rest of the team because she's "normal" while they're all geniuses. And thus her being normal is what enables her to provide the perspective of the average person that the team apparently needs so desperately. And why anyone thought this was a brilliant approach to the show is beyond me. On an intellectual level, it never makes any sense to have smarter being as somehow not being normal Everyone is just, well, human and we leave things at that. There's nothing abnormal about intelligence or dedicating your life to a career path that involves using your brain.

And the show repeatedly beats this trope with a dead horse given every single member of the team is socially awkward somehow and it seems they don't make all that much progress as the show gets through the season. And there are some really terrible moments that transcend having a bad understand of human behavior and end up feeling just plain rude.

The show also repeatedly engages the trope of knowledge of something almost immediately translates into having the skill to do said thing. This is most often practiced by Happy, since she's the closest the group can get to being the group bad ass. Toby is a really bad behaviorist, or at least that's the impression he gives off. I mean if he's meant to be a genius-level behaviorist, then you'd think that he would pick up on almost any social cues and also know how to behave in a manner that controls his own tells or something. Instead he just vomits out insights at random.

Despite my many complaints about the series and the rather narrow character concepts, the show isn't without merit. If you can get past how stupid their geniuses actually seem to be, the show's outright ridiculousness is just crazy enough to be borderline campy. Just look at the very first episode that has them trying to connect a CAT5 cable to a plane as it comes in for a landing in order to fix some strange firmware issue. How does that even work? Why would this plan work? And yet it does.

Scorpion is not a perfect show and it has so many problems that you can't help but feel bad for it to some degree. But then it also makes for a relatively entertaining train wreck with the occasional wacky plot that isn't too bad. Thus the series gets a passable 2.5 abuses of science and technology out of a possible 5.


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