The Shows I’m Watching and You Should Too: Things Based on Movies

With the fall TV season kicking off, I thought I’d take a little break from book reviews and share my thoughts on some of the shows I enjoy watching. Of course I’m excited for the return of some of my favorites like The Flash, Elementary, and iZombie, but there are plenty of new shows hitting the small screen as well. Two of these are actually based on films, which in turn had been based on a short story and a novel themselves…because apparently originality is still dead, and we’ve wrung just about all we can out of the superhero genre at this point, so why not try this?

But snarky comments aside, I actually enjoyed the pilots for Minority Report and Limitless quite a bit, and I think both shows have potential.

Minority Report takes place several years after the events of the film (originally based on the short story “The Minority Report” by Philip K. Dick). For those of you who haven’t seen it, the premise is that there are three siblings who have precognition (and are therefore referred to as “precogs”). When all three of their minds are working in unison, they are able to predict the future. A pre-crime police task force was created to stop crimes from happening based on these predictions. However, after a criminal with knowledge of the system managed to spoof it and almost frame someone else for a crime, the system was shut down.

Now, years later, the siblings have grown up. The eldest, Agatha (Laura Regan), was the strongest in terms of her gift, and she has a kind of motherly, oracle role about her. Then there are the twins. Arthur (Nick Zano), arguably the second strongest, has used his powers to become wealthy, benefiting from market fluctuations and traumatic events that he can predict. Dash (Stark Sands), who was always considered the weakest, is one of the series’ main characters. He is haunted by visions of crimes that are about to occur, and so he tries to stop them from happening. With the help of Detective Lara Vega (Meagan Good), he is able to actually do something about them.

The series is set-up to follow the standard procedural format you might expect where Dash and Vega solve crimes. However, it has also already established an overarching long-term plot. Agatha has seen visions where she and her siblings are in some kind of danger. We don’t have much in the way of details yet, but apparently the work Dash is doing with Vega could spell trouble for all of them.

I will say that in terms of writing and acting, the pilot for Minority Report is not the best I’ve seen. It felt a little bit stilted at points, but there was a lot of information to get through with all of the world building and characters being introduced. The chemistry between the leads was still good, and the premise is fun, so I think the show will have legs, especially if it can keep improving and adding depth to the characters and the world.

One of my favorite things about this show is the world building. The movie was very good at showing off some well thought out technologies, and the show appears to be following in those foot steps. For example, Vega works with Augmented Reality through the use of contact lenses that can double as computer screens and overlay information on her normal vision. The show also displays a wide use of drones from an advanced flying selfie-stick to hunter-seeker things that Vega uses to cover ground when casing a warehouse. These types of technologies are things that are being developed today and are not that far away, yet I see so many sci-fi shows not take them into account. It’s great to see a show whose writers are apparently doing some research into emerging technologies.

Another point in my book for Minority Report is that its cast is actually pretty diverse. From major to supporting characters, people from a pretty wide range of racial backgrounds appear on the screen, and I think that’s a nice change of pace from many other TV shows (and certainly most films).

I never saw the Limitless film (which was based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn) because quite frankly I thought the premise was silly, but I guess it did well enough in theaters that someone thought a TV show would be a good idea. Naturally said show had to be a police procedural as well because that’s how TV works. But just because a format is familiar and a premise is silly doesn’t mean a show can’t be effective, especially when the writing and acting is damn good.

The story follows Brian Finch (Jake McDorman), a guy who has been trying to make it in the music industry but hasn’t found a break and instead is feeling the pressure of getting older and older and having nothing to show for his life. Things become more dire when his father gets sick with a disease that doctors are unable to diagnose, and Brian feels helpless both in that he can’t do anything for his father and that if his father passes he will only ever have known Brian as a failure. Feeling sorry for him, Brian’s old band mate, now a highly successful stock trader, gives Brian a pill that will give him a boost. Brian is able to diagnose his father’s illness with his new found intellect and focus, but he then becomes caught up in a web of murders surrounding the drug he was given and has to prove his innocence.

McDorman does an incredible job in the lead role and is the reason this show is worth watching. His character has a ton of internal monologues explaining what is going on and showing the viewer how he is connecting the dots. There are also a lot of flashbacks involved, some of which were to provide the character background, but some of them are humorous. For example, Brian has to pick a lock at one point, which his knowledge from the pill helps him do. But to add some flavor to scene, instead of just showing the technical aspects of lock-picking, the director also shows us a flashback to a time when Brian would have needed said lock-picking expertise, namely when an ex-girlfriend had handcuffed him to the bed, and they didn’t know how to get the cuffs off.

Jennifer Carpenter (who I still love from that one season of Dexter I actually watched) is also very good as the enforcer character FBI Agent Rebecca Harris. She didn’t have so much to do in the pilot as compared to McDorman, and the show is set-up to be primarily about Brian Finch anyway, but I’m looking forward to seeing more of her character moving forward.

Limitless strikes me as very similar to series like Castle or The Mentalist where an expert is escorted around by a female police officer or agent who can handle the action scenes while the expert does the mental heavy-lifting to solve the crime. The wrinkle and point of tension here is that Brian Finch isn’t an expert on anything. He’s only effective when he’s using the mind expanding drug, known as NZT, which I think makes his character both more fun and relatable.

If the writing can stay as sharp as it was in the pilot, I think this series will continue to be quite good. And yes, to answer your question, it would appear as though Bradley Cooper’s character is set-up for return appearances. He doesn’t play a hugely prominent role, but given the events of the pilot I have to believe that his character is tied to some of the plots surrounding NZT and that he will be showing up again.

Anyway, if you aren’t watching these shows, or if you were on the fence about committing time to them, I think both of them are worth checking out. And I think if there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s that you shouldn’t let anyone ever tell you that your fan fiction won’t sell.

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