Fall 2014 Review: Scorpion

26 Sep


My friend Victor a few years back coined the term “nerdface,” referring to several modern television shows and movies, but primarily to the far and away most successful and notable example of the phenmoenon, The Big Bang Theory. Nerdface is a superfacial showcasing of nerdom – showing nerds as stereotypical, extreme archetypes who are brilliant book-learners but totally non-functional socially. They love Star Trek, they can’t talk to women, and they generally simply can’t interact with regular non-nerd people in any way. Are there people who legitimately have trouble with social intereaction for any number of reasons? For sure. But these nerdface examples aren’t nuanced, complex, character portraits. They are instead reductive displays of character tropes everyone knows and instantly recognizes played for broad laughs. I could, and should, write an entry on how perplexing and frustrating it is that The Big Bang Theory is far and away the most popular comedy on TV, and hopefully someday I will, but this is certainly one of the reasons.

Scorpion brings nerdface to the police procedural genre. Scorpion is essentially some mash up of The Big Bang Theory and The A-Team (or the far less well-known Breakout Kings).  Scorbian features nerds who form a superteam solving especially difficult cases each week using a combination of the distinct super skills that each of them possesses (Yes, neither comparison is perfect – The A-Team is not affiliated with the government and Breakout Kings are former criminals, but work with me here). We see the four primary geniuses working together early in the episode, trying to start a profitabile company on their own, but their personal issues are holding them back in spite of their brilliance. There’s Walter, who’s a super genius and functions as the group’s leader and the closest they have to someone who can deal with the outside world. There’s Toby, a brilliant behaviorist who has an amazing ability to read people. There’s Sylvester, who is the nerdiest of the nerds and whose area of specialty is statistics. Rounding out the team is the one female member, Happy, an expert mechanical engineer. The four are recruited by federal agent Gallo in the premiere to solve a crisis, after which he recruits them full time, an outcome which Walter claims to have anticipated from the outset. Gallo continues to play the role of their government handler. The last member of the cast is Paige, an ordinary waitress whose child Walter recognizes as a prodigy. Walter recruits her to be their normie, helping these nerds interact socially with regular folk, while also helping her raise her genius son.

This is also a matter for a seperate post, but I generally ascribe responsibility for gender and racial diversity to networks rather than individual shows; TV networks should be responsible for fielding more diverse shows, but individual shows shouldn’t always be responsible for being more diverse, depending, of course, on the circumstances and context of the individual show. That said it’s disappointing and not particularly surprising that the four nerds are three male to one female, and all the characters but one are white. That’s certainly not a big enough factor that I would choose to watch or not watch a show becuase of, but just another example of what’s par for the course on television, and especially network television.

Every week there will be a new crisis and every week the team of super nerds will be there to solve it. Intrinsically I understand the appeal of the super team, but the nerdface in particular rubs me the wrong besides the show just having absolutely nothing else which would make it stick out from the pack of CBS procedurals.

Will I watch it again? No. I don’t hate procedurals as a rule; while I don’t watch any outside of the original Law & Order (my love of that show is a topic for a post in itself) with any regularity, in general, the genre has a fairly high floor and low ceiling. Of CBS’s newbies this season though, I’d take NCIS: New Orleans over Scorpion.

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