This reviewer is a long-time fan of science fiction. ‘Firefly,’ ‘Stargate,’ ‘Doctor Who,’ and ‘Star Trek’ are all in regular rotation in the Gorham household. It’s a love that started back in 1975 and even includes, to Mrs. Gorham’s chagrin, a line of classic Godzilla movies on VHS. So when this reviewer tells you that CBS’ ‘Limitless’ is the most boring, disappointing, poorly-produced dreck since ‘Killer Clowns From Outer Space,’ it means that something is seriously wrong with this show.
It’s not that anybody can get mad at CBS for returning to the well of genius-fighting-crime plots. It’s held great success for the network in recent years. From ‘Numb3rs’ to ‘The Mentalist’ to ‘Elementary’ to the recent hit ‘Scorpion,’ genius stories have been a reliable cash cow for the Columbia Broadcasting System. The difference is that those shows had what Limitless does not; believable characters and reasons to care about them.
It would be one thing if the hero of the story were a good-natured lummox who works hard, or even the average joe who sees things wrong in the world but feels powerless to do anything about it. Who do we get instead? Brian Finch, a shiftless, no-ambition slacker whose greatest desire was to make his college band a hit – a tall order since everybody else in the band left, leaving Brian to croak out his semi-talented lyrics at empty clubs where nobody cares if he’s onstage or not. He’s a man whose only connections are old ones, maintained out of obligation, sentiment, and pity. As he admits in the pilot’s narration, he can barely take care of himself. This lends the story the feel of being as directionless as Brian himself, and perhaps even more pitiful.
The big super power comes in the form of a pill, an illegal drug, slipped to him by his former band mate-turned-investment banker, Eli Whitford, also out of pity. It’s a synthetic neurotransmitter called NZT, which unlocks 100% of the brain’s neural capacity. The drawback: it comes with increasingly bad detox cycles after every pill, and continued use eventually proves fatal. How is it portrayed? In a word, poorly. Between the condescending, elementary school-level explanations of what’s going on, Brian’s self-serving running monologue narration, the obnoxious conversations with imagined doubles of himself, and the endless stream of all-too-predictable cliches, this show leaves a person praying, begging the NZT to give Brian a cerebral aneurysm by the end of the episode. The only thing that keeps him from being corrupted by the power he unlocks is the fact that he’s too pathetic and boring to have as interesting a thought as garnering power or money.
Bottom line: between the poor direction, unconvincing acting, and atrociously-conceived story, Limitless is one show with a limited shelf life. While not the worst thing on TV ever, it’s perilously close. To quote the usually amiable Mrs. Gorham, “I want that hour of my life back.” Watch only as a last resort during rerun season or as a remedy for insomnia.
If you like having your intelligence insulted, watch it now: