Thinly disguised as an FBI procedural, this oddball mix of stoner comedy and action, mystery, adventure series about an epic slacker whose life is changed by the mind altering drug NZT, has proven itself to be reliably good source of light genre entertainment all season long.
Make no mistake, despite appearances, this series is a stoner comedy, the bastard offspring of the movie by the same title, and every Cheech and Chong comedy you have ever seen. The show is just as funny as those films without being quite so overplayed for what it is. It is also one more series that falls into the recent trend of combining crime/police dramas with a genre twist, except in place of drama it uses comedy to entertain. Good, smart comedy. It manages to also be a mostly good spy-fi series, with stories that revolve around science fiction concepts as their basis, and humor similar to that from earlier light-hearted spy-fi shows, like The Avengers.
The idea this show is based on is a familiar one. A new drug unlocks the full potential of the human brain, which most of us only use 10% of, allowing the user to become super smart, and capable of understanding and calculations beyond anything currently possible by the rest of us.
We all know the conversation about how the science it is based on is not very solid or accurate, that the whole idea of us using only 10% of our brain’s potential is fantasy, but that doesn’t mean the premise is not fun to play with. The people behind this show, the movie that preceded it by the same name, and the film Lucy (2014) were smart enough to figure that out. In the case of this show its a lot of fun.
It stars Jake McDorman as Brian Finch, who discovers the power of a mysterious drug called NZT-48 which opens the full possibility of his brain and gives him perfect recall of everything he has ever read, heard, or seen. It was conceived by the film of the same name, which in turn was based on the novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, The events of the show take place after the events of the movie.
Brian is not your usual idea of a hero, quite the opposite, he’s a slacker and a stoner, who makes a deal with the FBI to use his mental powers, to help them solve crimes. Why use a stoner, and slacker like Brian? Because he secretly gets injected with a substance that allows him to take NZT repeatedly without the usual side effects of mental damage it causes from regular use.
There’s only one catch, he’s indebted to the people that make what he does possible, and they ask for favors in return occasionally. Unpleasant favors he doesn’t want to do. Colin Salmon as Jarrod Sands, a former MI6 officer is Brian’s contact with these people. This provides the series with a long term story arc beyond the adventure/mystery-of-the-week that serves as the show’s meat and potatoes. There is also a long term story arc revolving around Brian’s parents and his relationship with them.
The show has a small ensemble cast that is appealing for the most part, and helps make it the enjoyable weekly light fare that it is. It includes Jennifer Carpenter as FBI Special Agent Rebecca Harris, who is Brian’s partner in crime and lifeline when he’s on a case. She also serves as a potential romantic interest, and counterpoint for Brian’s goofball approach to looking at the world and doing things. Bradley Cooper, as the now U.S. Senator Eddie Morra, the star of the film the series is based on, also makes occasional appearances on the show.
Also in supporting roles are Rebecca’s boss Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as FBI Special Agent in Charge Nasreen “Naz” Pouran, Hill Harper as FBI Special Agent Spellman Boyle who is the by-the-book agent as another counterpoint to Brian’s often unorthodox approach to doing things. The show also features Tom Degnan, and Michael James Shaw as FBI Agents who serve as Jake’s keepers and bodyguards who he nicknames “Mike” and “Ike”
Part of the charm and and much of the humor in this series stems from Brian’s uncompromising juvenile attitude, and unorthodox approach to doing things. This leads to some fish-out-of-water stuff that’s mostly fun. He behaves like an irresponsible child much of the time, but always manages to come through for his straight laced employers who put up with his drug fueled antics for the most part. NZT is not the only drug Brian uses, he is often depicted smoking pot from a bong while working for them and outside that context as well.
This is not Shakespeare. What it is, is a mostly enjoyable show that has proven to be pretty reliable light entertainment, in the form of a genre series that makes for a nice weekly diversion from shows that sometimes take themselves maybe a little too seriously. Worth checking out.