Hit or Sh**: CBS’s WISDOM OF THE CROWD
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
I swear there’s an app for everything now. Need to go somewhere but have no ride? There’s an app for that. Have to look for a place to eat but don’t have any ideas? There’s an app for that. Want to curate your life and do things solely for the purpose of getting “likes” online, eventually descending down an endless abyss of meaningless filters and captions? There’s an app for that. With each new day, technology advances, and breakthroughs that seemed far in the future are suddenly ready to download online. So (I guess) it only makes sense that the next innovative smart-phone program to come out of Silicon Valley is a crowdsourcing one that solves crimes faster than actual police detectives.
WISDOM OF THE CROWD follows Jeffrey Tanner (Jeremy Piven), a wealthy tech innovator who sells his multi-billion-dollar company to focus on crime-solving app Sophe (pronounced Sophie—I guess it’s some bull about how there’s no “I” in Sophe because they’re a team or something). Tanner’s passion project is designed to gather information its users find and compile that data to somehow result in the conviction of criminals. After the app’s release, Tanner proclaims that he intends it to find the true murderer of his daughter, Mia (Abigail F. Cowen)—but he soon realizes that it can be used to solve a plethora of mysteries and revolutionize crime solving.
The look of disbelief on my face when WISDOM OF THE CROWD uses yet another dumb deus ex machina from the web to solve its problems
The pilot uses all of its run time on tepid explanations of how Sophe works—that is, having skeptical Detective Tommy Cavanaugh (Richard T. Jones) question many of the app’s technological abilities/limitations and gray ethical areas. However, Tanner and Sophe’s head engineer, Sara Morton (Natalia Tena), are quick to defend Sophe with nonsensical answers. The show seems really excited to get into the swing of things, because it uncreatively explains the basics in a hurried, brushed over manner, as if simply to get it out of the way. It would be interesting to see how the show deals with ethical implications of a crowdsourcing crime app—such as concerns about privacy from shady evidence gathering and about safety for those targeted online and in person without valid proof of their criminality. However, WISDOM OF THE CROWD waves over these topics and insouciantly dismisses all of its potential to act as a commentary on society’s overuse and obsession with social media in the modern age.
WISDOM OF THE CROWD can’t even rely on most of its characters as a crutch to save itself, because they are predictable and flat. It’s hard building any sympathy for most of them because they are selfish and obnoxious, and not in a way that seems like they’ll have some sort of greater character arc. They fail to see any of the consequences their app and actions could have; when Sophe gets hacked and a man subsequently lands in the hospital, Tanner just blames it on the program malfunctions. Only Detective Cavanaugh and Tanner’s ex-wife, Alex Hale (Monica Potter), seem to have any sort of moral compass in the show, and they are shown insubstantially and negligibly. The show does have a few great performances—in particular, Tena depicts Sara Morton’s headstrong and fiery temperament with a refreshing vivacity that polarizes her from the other unstimulating characters in the show. Potter plays Mia’s grieving but strong mother so well it enriches the story, for once making it seem a little human. On the other hand, while Piven (sometimes) sympathetically portrays Tanner as a man still haunted by the death and memory of his daughter, all of his pretentious affectations take away from the affability of his character. WISDOM OF THE CROWD under-utilizes the already scarce amount of strong characters it has, instead focusing on those that fail to give the show any kind of uniqueness or likable charisma.
“I’m not a regular CEO. I’m a cool CEO. Right, Cavanaugh?”
I’m not sure if I’m being too optimistic in thinking that since the show has finished setting up its premise and all the nitty-gritty facts about Sophe, it will somehow pick up. I love crime procedural TV shows, and somehow WISDOM OF THE CROWD—despite its shitty pilot—seems like it almost has the potential to entertain with some great, twisted mysteries. But here’s the thing—I just don’t care enough about this show to keep up. Its characters are bland and its dialogue uninspiring. I found myself dozing off every now and then because I couldn’t pay attention to the tasteless way the show unraveled its plot points and character dynamics. WISDOM OF THE CROWD proposes that the joint power of Sophe’s users will solve all the problems in the world—but the show fails to realize that no amount of collectivist knowledge will lend the wisdom it needs to keep audiences entertained.