“Limitless” (CBS) pilot preview: a high octane thriller for action junkies!

LIMITLESS

Written & produced by Craig Sweeny (Elementary, Medium, The 4400). Co-produced by Bradley Cooper, Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci (Fringe, Hawaii 5-0, Scorpion, Stark Trek, Alias), Neil Burger (Limitless, Divergente, The Illusionnist) and many others. Directed by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man, Lone Star). For CBS, CBS Television Studios, Relativity Television, Yet To Be Named Company & K/O. 63 pages.

Description: Brian Sinclair discovers the power of the mysterious drug NZT and is coerced into using his newfound drug-enhanced abilities to solve weekly cases for the FBI, alongside FBI Agent Rebecca Tate…

With Jake McDorman (American Sniper, Greek), Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), Hill Harper (CSI New York, Covert Affairs), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantiono (Scarface, Abyss, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves)…

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CBS has three high profile pilots this year: Rush Hour (Read the preview here), DC Comics’ top secret Supergirl and Limitless, adapted from the 2011 movie with Bradley Cooper. Probably two of them will go to series. Limitless as a TV series sounds a little… limited but hey, it’s for CBS: it’s a police procedural in the end, but with a greater mythology and a science-fiction twist that helps making it special. Yes, I think it’s special even though it reminded me a little bit of Person of Interest and another pilot in contention this year but at FOX: Minority Report. The three gives you the same high voltage of action scenes and twists and turns. You can’t fall asleep watching that and it’s hard looking the other way. But falling in love is another thing…

I didn’t fall in love with Limitless but I recognize the script has great qualities and there’s an evident potential here. It may even be a better TV show than a movie. That’s probably one of the arguments the producers gave to CBS while trying to convince them to take a look at this adaptation of a movie that didn’t really work and didn’t become the franchise it was meant to be. Another argument is the one I exposed in an article: the presence of the characters of Eddie Mora, played by Bradley Cooper himself, and Carl, played by the great Robert de Niro (Read the article here). It definitely helps and it’s not just cameos, at least for Cooper. As for the lead role, they chose Jake McDorman, just coming out of successful Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, where he shared scenes with Bradley Cooper. This man’s everywhere! Finally, Jennifer Carpenter tries to find her next adventure since the end of Dexter. It takes time. After two pilots (Sea Of Fire for ABC and Stanistan for USA Network) and right in the middle of a pregnancy, she’s back at work in a role that doesn’t seem very different from her Debra Morgan but people will be happy to see her again. So, Limitless has a lot going on for it.

The first scene and even the first act (the whole pilot ?) is action and action, again and again. And special effects everywhere, ‘cos Brian Sinclair is multiplying in his mind and on our screens thanks to the drug he takes. He can imagine what would happen if he does this or that, so he can observe, for example, that he might be hit by a bus if he chooses to turn right instead of left. Everything that happens in his brain is transcribed with images or his inner voice for us to hear. It’s a lot to take in but it works, on the page. Then it’s the director’s job -and Marc Webb is a good one- and his team to make the most of it in budget. Of course, they will have to relax for the next episodes but it’s doable I guess. What I’m less fond of is the characters’ personal stories. Saying it’s easy would be an understatement. Brian’s father is ill, that’s what motivates him to do all these crazy things and taking so many risks, while Agent Rebecca Tate’s father died of addiction so, of course, this drug and the person who dies because of it feels like her problem too. Lazy writing…

Limitless is the perfect show for CBS: not too risky -a procedural- but a little bit different than what they already have -science-fiction- that can attract the young demo they are desperately looking for. Moreover, it’s a potential companion for Scorpion (they share the same producers!), it’s in-house produced and it has a great international appeal. If the race was not that tight at the network, I’d say it’s a no-brainer…

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