1. Life & Culture

Review: CBS's bionic-man redux 'Intelligence' more looks than smarts

Josh Holloway brings a smirking charm to CBS’ new show Intelligence.
Josh Holloway brings a smirking charm to CBS’ new show Intelligence.
Published Jan. 12, 2014

Forget Google Glass: In new CBS cyber-actioner Intelligence, a Google Brain is the new must-have accessory, especially tucked into the pretty head of likable galoot Josh Holloway, for whom we've hankered since his Sawyer days on Lost. Think of "America's favorite superweapon" — their words, not mine — as the sexiest new laptop in the Apple store.

At a time when many of us are begrudgingly addicted to the "information grid" — or at least can't stop Facebooking cat pictures — there's juicy promise in a show about a half-man, half-search engine who can't unplug, who can't escape the overwhelming online onslaught, whether he wants to or not. A gift and a curse, right? From the two episodes I've seen — including tonight's "Red X," which gets into the human dilemma more than the pilot — Intelligence isn't ready to go much deeper than a slick procedural drama, but there's certainly promise.

Holloway still drawls out "How ya doin', chief?" like a smirking Georgia barkeep, and his shaggy shtick is a saving grace among all the tech-driven nerdery. His Gabriel Vaughn is a "reckless, unpredictable, insubordinate" (but of course!) Delta Force soldier turned into a human computer — a sorta-cyborg with scruff. Implanted with a one-of-a-kind chip, he can answer any question, "cyber-render" any crime scene — even call up sexts when macking on a new female partner: "Wow, that photo you emailed your boyfriend in college. Gotta be careful what you send out into the world."

Finally, a show IT guys and soccer moms can enjoy together!

The way it works now, Intelligence is overcooked with global-terrorism plots and leaden dialogue flowing through the halls of U.S. Cyber Command. It gets its bad guys from the Middle East and China, its cold bureaucrats, including a monotonous hard-case played by CSI's Marg Helgenberger, from Homeland. And it has done little to explain how Gabriel became Gabriel.

But thanks to Holloway, it also has a haggard humanism; you get the feeling Gabriel's gift is eventually going to be a struggle, and that's when the show could pay off. Early in the debut ep, when someone at U.S. Cyber Command intones, "We gave a human the kind of power that had previously been found in a machine," a key '70s touchstone comes lovingly to mind: The Six Million Dollar Man. Lee Majors' Steve Austin was also skeptical of his governmental bosses, and yet he could also sell a wink better than most bionic boys.

Holloway will have to carry the show, and yet when CBS ponies up for special effects, the souped-up visuals in our hero's head are big-screen gorgeous. (Even if they're accompanied by lines such as "I'm in the DMV database now" and Holloway with a faraway look in his eyes. He's processing, folks. Give the man space.) A shoot-out in a darkened paintball arcade packs novel punch when Gabriel accesses a space satellite with thermal capabilities — and he can suddenly see, and shoot, the bad guys.

Fancy tricks and cyber-speak aside, Intelligence will be best served focusing on the emotional facets of Gabriel's powers instead of, say, building a love-hate romance with his Secret Service bodyguard (Once Upon a Time's Meghan Ory) or drawing out the mystery of his shadowy CIA wife. Keep it simple, CBS. After all, Holloway has that same sparkly small-screen magnetism as such icons as Majors, Tom Selleck and James Garner, no small praise there. Let Josh be Josh, chief, and we'll keep coming back.

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Sean Daly can be reached at Follow @seandalypoplife on on Twitter.


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