One episode was provided prior to broadcast.
Coming from someone who has only seen the big screen version of Limitless in random pieces on basic cable, CBS’ new-crime-procedural-with-a-different-wallpaper is shockingly deft in doing what it sets out to accomplish. There’s a surprising amount of sweetness thanks to a core relationship between loner Brian and his sickly father, and the show as a whole works overtime in catching up anyone who may never have heard of the Bradley Cooper-starring film. All the same, it will hardly change the opinions of those who visibly revolt against those acronym-heavy procedurals that CBS trots out each year, but given the opportunity, there’s decent a chance you’ll get lost in this world along with Brian.
Taking place in-real-time, four years after the events of the 2011 movie, the new Limitless catches us up with the action courtesy of Brian Finch (Jake McDorman, who finally feels functionally used as an actor after a string of dud roles), a lowly musician who promotes an album he hasn’t worked on in a year and slowly watches his family and friends mature around him as he lies stuck in the same 2 AM bar gig rut year-after-year. Refreshingly, his dad Dennis (Ron Rifkin) is the most supportive of all his family, encouraging his son to keep following his dreams even as he approaches 30.
Those “dreams” lead Brian to a temp job at a local big-wig banking company, where he runs into an old buddy named Eli (Arjun Gupta), who hands off to him a little pill – NZT – that he promises will solve all his problems. It does, and then it creates a dozen more, leading to a murder investigation for which he is framed and must speed around New York City with his newfound superpowers (super reading! Super remembering! Super… filing?) in order to prove his innocence to trustworthy cop Rebecca Harris (Jennifer Carpenter) and, maybe, help solve some more crimes.
Although the idea of the powers presented by the concept of the show are neat – he can recall a random YouTube video he watched to help him pick a lock – Limitless ultimately stumbles when it comes to presenting them in a winning fashion. The show largely sticks Brian in a room talking to another version of himself to help him get through problems, or shows his predictions for the outcome of events like some half-baked PowerPoint presentation, or – most grievous – uses the whole floating-equations-in-the-air montage as he rummages through textbooks for answers. Because, science!