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Scorpion: Season One (Blu-ray Review)

28 Aug, 2015 By: John Latchem

Street 9/1/15
$64.99 six-DVD set, $76.99 five-disc Blu-ray
Not rated.
Stars Elyes Gabel, Katharine McPhee, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jadyn Wong, Ari Stidham, Robert Patrick, Riley B. Smith.

There’s an episode during the early run of this freshman CBS procedural that involves computer software that can create hip new songs by emulating the traits of other hits. I might have assumed this show had been created the same way if a featurette didn’t delve into the real story.

To wit, two of the biggest scripted shows on TV at the moment are “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS.” Mash them together, and you get “Scorpion.”

The observation is especially apt considering one episode includes a guest appearance by Linda Hunt playing her character from “NCIS Los Angeles.”

The show is inspired by the life of computer expert and celebrity genius Walter O’Brien, who serves as one of the executive producers. The show’s Walter (Elyes Gabel) runs a think tank of super geniuses who take odd jobs to get by until recruited by a Homeland Security agent (Robert Patrick) to handle difficult tasks for the government. The rest of the team, which is called Scorpion, includes human calculator Sylvester (Ari Stidham), who is afraid of everything; mechanical genius Happy (Jadyn Wong), who is angry at everything; and behavior analyst Toby (Eddie Kaye Thomas), who uses his psychiatry training and natural skill reading body language to win at poker.

Thomas, a veteran of the “American Pie” movies, has been given most of the funny lines in an attempt to make Toby the show’s breakout character. Well, it worked. Things tend to perk up when Toby’s around.

There’s also Katharine McPhee as Paige, a "normal" former waitress whose ill-defined role with the team is broadly explained as serving as a liaison between the geniuses and the rest of the world, though she’s mostly there (not unlike Penny on “Big Bang”) just to look pretty, listen to huge amounts of exposition, provide a love interest for the main character and be the occasional damsel in distress. Paige has a savant son named Ralph (Riley B. Smith) whom Walter takes an interest in mentoring.

The plotting is reminiscent of “House” with its bizarre cases, while the overall vibe is similar to “Castle,” but without Nathan Fillion’s charisma to anchor the episodes when they start to get wacky.

“Scorpion” adheres to a tried-and-true formula for procedurals that makes sure everyone’s skill set is needed to solve every case, with a healthy dose of coincidental plot devices to come along when needed to drive the story forward by letting the team act like MacGyver to create anything they need in between trying to surviving shootouts and over-the-top action setpieces (which calls attention to the fact that Paige probably doesn't need to be there half the time).

The writers’ interpretation of a team of geniuses seems to be to treat them like X-Men who all have the mutant power of a superior intellect (except when the show likes to demonstrate how their lack of a connection to the common world gets them into trouble, another trope of “Big Bang”).

The cases of the week tend to range from the cheesy to the utterly ridiculous, as half the episodes seem to imply that the team’s failure could lead to World War III (except for the one that states it explicitly). Luckily, each world-changing life-and-death situation is capable of being resolved in just a few hours. What else would you expect from a show that begins each episode with an introductory vignette in which the main character brags about being smarter than Einstein?

Fortunately, the show is also focused on developing the interpersonal relationships between the characters, and it’s these moments that give the audience something to latch onto over the course of the season. Despite a tendency to annoy, the characters aren’t without their charms.

The Blu-ray is loaded with deleted scenes, episode commentaries and bonus featurettes, including plenty of behind-the-scenes glimpses and profiles of the various characters. One of the more interesting extras is an examination of each character’s defining trait, framed as a tour of the brain hosted by Toby.

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