Article originally published as LIMITLESS Review on Seat42F.
There are a lot of shows right now popping up to offer continuations of past shows or movies. My review of the disappointing Minority Report posted earlier this week, and now I tackle LIMITLESS, a sequel to the 2011 film of the same name, which starred Bradley Cooper. The show LIMITLESS picks up a few years later with a new young man who finds the NZT drug that allows you access to all of your brain, and other than that, progresses in roughly the same way the big version did.
LIMITLESS stars the excellent Jake McDorman (Greek, Shameless, Live Free or Die Hard) as Brian Sinclair. A failed musician, he receives a pill from his former bandmate and is suddenly able to help his ill father (Ron Rifkin, Alias). The problem is, when Brian goes to find more, he gets pulled into a murder investigation and an illegal drug ring, which soon finds him on the run from the law and worse.
I enjoyed the pilot of LIMITLESS. It does repeat the plot of the movie a tad bit more than I’d like, but it offers a more sympathetic hero than the film; Brian wants to help others, not himself, and it takes us back into the conspiracy presented. Adding Brian’s family as a major element makes the show more than a crime drama, and the really cool return of Eddie Morra (Cooper reprising his role) works in seamlessly for a nice set up.
What I’m concerned about is that LIMITLESS, instead of exploring this deep, rich tapestry, will confine itself to tracking down one lead every week, Brian working with the FBI agents to do so. The reason I think this is the direction that the show will take is because, a.) LIMITLESS airs on CBS, home of the crime procedural, and b.) all of the main characters, save Brian himself, are FBI agents. His terrific family are merely guest stars, and not likely to be the focus of most future installments.
Now, the ensemble assembled is not one to complain about. Brian’s ‘partner,’ Rebecca, is played by Dexter’s Jennifer Carpenter. Along with Hill Harper’s (Covert Affairs) Boyle, she works for Nasreen Awad (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Grimm). These are enjoyable enough actors, and are interesting to watch in the initial installment.
It’s just, how many of these carbon copy shows do we need? I just wrote a review wherein I laid out the premise of a quirky oddball with a special skill who inexplicably is allowed to work cases with the authorities. And that description applies to what feels like half of the scripted dramas on the broadcast networks right now. Do CBS, NBC, and the rest feel like this is a good recipe for long-term success? Because it’s not. A few of these will pop and provide short-term gains, but none will see a long shelf life, nor find passionate fans binge watching for years to come.
LIMITLESS is counting on the movie ‘prequel’ to bring in an existing audience, potentially giving it an edge over a completely original show since there will already be fans out there before the pilot even makes it on air. But if that premise is just going to be contorted into a clone of other works, why is it necessary? And will that audience stick around for very occasional cameos from Cooper? I am inclined to think not, though I could be wrong.
I really wish CBS would get itself on track and make more quality content, like The Good Wife. But it seems like the network is content to help drive the nails into its own coffin, while cable and streaming platforms like AMC and Netflix continue to kick their butt in creativity. Oh, well. CBS has had a good run. Everything must end. LIMITLESS will probably help them reach that finish line.
LIMITLESS premieres September 22nd on CBS, and CBS All-Access subscribers can watch the pilot online now.