Recently I made a remarkable discovery. CBS, the network that specializes in family comedies led by old white guys and criminal procedures (also led by old white guys) has a covert division of TV writers working for them. They’re the Division 6 of the network, the xXx of scribes — thrill-seeking wordsmiths and daredevil poets doing high-flying stunts with their pens, working to transform a staid lineup into something that might actually be worth DVR-ing. (Are DVRs still a thing?).
That’s the only way I can describe the glorious gift that is Scorpion.
Look, most of the talk when it comes to zany, unabashedly ridiculous shows on CBS centers around Zoo and rightly so. Zoo is the cream of the crop when it comes to shows that prompt the question “What the f*ck were they thinking?” It’s the perfect case study of what happens when a writer has a pretty fantastic LSD trip, jots down their psychedelic ramblings, mashes it all together and throws it on some executive’s plate. In other words, you should watch Zoo.
But it seems that, in the colossal shadow, Scorpion, the little show that could about a group of geniuses struggling to understand the world even as they save it, has somehow been cheated of its due. Well, I’m here to correct that glaring injustice. I’m here to introduce you to your next guilty pleasure, the show you’ll answer with when co-workers make mundane small-talk, asking what you’re watching at the water cooler. You’ll say, “I’m loving Scorpion right now, because I read this hilarious, insightful, Pulitzer Prize-deserving feature on it on Uproxx … and because Zoo’s currently on hiatus.”
Scorpion is a loose account of a real-life genius named Walter O’Brien. The real O’Brien is an Irish computer expert who likes to claim he has the fourth highest IQ in the world. He’s pretty smart, I guess. But TV Walter O’Brien (played by Game of Thrones‘ Elyes Gabel) is not only a proven prodigy and all-around Einstein, he just so happens to be roguishly good-looking (like former Dothraki horseman good-looking) and have the ability to save the world on a daily basis no matter what the doomsday scenario.
Rebooting an airplane’s software system by hooking up an Ethernet cord to the bottom of a 747 mid-air? Walter can do it.
Parachuting into Bosnia to recover military-grade stealth tech? Not a problem.
Going undercover on a superhero movie set in Kazakstan in order to disable a Soviet era nuclear missile? Child’s play.
He’s a man with no EQ (Emotional Quotient) who sets up shop in a dingy warehouse and spends his time hacking NASA. Yet the Department of Homeland Security treats the guy like he’s a regular Gerard Butler, tasking him with impossible, global problems and crossing their fingers that he’ll be smart enough to do their job for them.
But Boy Wonder over here isn’t the only worthwhile thing about this show. The supporting cast of characters (most of them geniuses as well) are heroes in their own right. There’s Happy (Jadyn Wong), an ironically named mechanical engineer; Toby (Eddie Kaye Thomas), a Harvard-trained psychiatrist whose job is to shrink people whenever the story needs some exposition; Sylvester (Ari Stidham), a human calculator, germophobe, and the show’s comedic relief; Agent Cabe Gallo (Robert Patrick), a former Marine and FBI agent who’s been tasked to play babysitter to the bunch, make bad dad jokes, and appear appropriately exasperated whenever DHS tasks the team with an assignment completely out of their depth; and Paige (Katharine McPhee), a waitress who… well she’s supposed to teach Walter how to relate to the world but that’s a pretty tall order for anyone.
I realize these descriptions might sound critical, but I think it’s best to be completely honest when it comes to this show. You will, episode after episode, be forced to throw all logical thought and rational explanations out the window. You’ll be asked to just “go along with it,” “It” being some crazy scheme or half-baked plan mocked up by geniuses or high-ranking government officials that will inevitably go wrong, forcing said geniuses to come up with a way to fix their mistakes using some other crazy scheme or half-baked plan, this one even more cracked than the last. It’s a wild rollercoaster of excitement, joy, frustration, and confusion, one that usually ends with the resigned acceptance that you’ve spent an hour invested in these characters and will likely do it again next week. Because you see, as completely improbable and insane this show can be, it’s also really fun to watch.