Scorpion: A Review (Not Really a Review, More Like a Fact-Check)

Scorpion, a new TV show on CBS, is in one of my least favorite genres of all: the action-IT genre.  This is the genre where high speed car chases, explosions and the like feature prominently in the life of an IT person.  As soon as I saw the trailer with the Ferrari under a flying airplane, I already knew this was going to be one of those shows.

The show is based loosely (and I mean very, very loosely) on the life of Walter O’Brien, a computer expert who helps the government solve complex issues.  Walter is considered one of the five smartest people alive worldwide with an IQ of 197.

I usually don’t have a problem with other IT genres such as comedy-IT (The IT Crowd, The Internship, Silicon Valley) or IT biopics (The Social Network, Jobs).  But when it comes to the action-IT genre, these shows are usually far-fetched and really stretch my imagination to its breaking point.  I understand that the first rule of watching shows is suspending your sense of disbelief (or is the first rule don’t talk about watching shows?), but a lot of the things that happen in this genre, and specifically in this show, are ridiculous.  I suppose this is what doctors feel when they watch hospital shows, or policemen when they watch cop shows, or lawyers when they watch law shows.

One minor issue first.  Scorpion in its logo is stylized as </scorpion>.  To me, this seems very asymmetrical.  If it were up to me, I would have gone for <scorpion /> instead.  That seems like it adheres more to best coding practices.

Now that I got that off my chest… (Whew!)

The show starts out introducing the misfit characters:  Walter, the genius computer expert with the photographic memory; Happy Quinn, the mechanical whiz; Sylvester, the human calculator; and Toby, a behaviorist a la “Lie to Me”.

They are so smart and so lacking in common sense (because smart people don’t have any common sense) that even though their company had just finished a couple of projects, they were unable to collect payment from their clients.  They couldn’t pay the bills and had their electricity shut off.  They, of course, now had to resort to doing what most small businesses (including myself) do whenever clients refuse to pay: have their mechanical engineer steal electricity from the city’s power grid.

Toby, while collecting payment from a client, gets in trouble because he gambles with the client in a double-or-nothing type game.  He ends up getting chased by two thugs, because this is the target demographic for their business.  Next time, Toby, just have them mail a check.  Or use Paypal.  Like, who collects payments in person anymore?

Anyway, the premise of the pilot episode is that the communications in the Los Angeles (LAX) airport broke down because of a software that auto-updated.  So there’s planes in the air that can’t land because the towers couldn’t communicate with them.  Seems reasonable enough, right?

*** Spoiler alert!  Here be the spoilers.  Stop reading here if you don’t want to know the spoilers.  You’ve been warned! (Actually, the plot is a little trite, so no big loss there.) ***

To solve this problem, they had to physically go to the data storage place where the LAX software backup is because apparently they can hack into NASA but can’t hack their way to a data storage facility even though they would actually have credentials to access their own information.  I didn’t see anybody trying to contact technical support to restore the backup.

Also, the reason why they had to access the backup within a certain period of time was because the backup was going to be overwritten during the daily backup and would then be lost forever.  Either the writers don’t know how backing up works, or somebody really incompetent is running that data storage facility and somebody incompetent at LAX hired said facility.  I mean, if your backup gets overwritten everyday, that’s not a very good system, is it?

Later on, they had to drive to LAX really fast, so what do you do when you want to get to the airport quickly?  Hack into the traffic light system and turning the lights green, of course, because that’s the best use of your time while you’re trying to solve a crisis.

Don’t even get me started on the airplane and the Ferrari.

All in all, if you can discount the inaccuracies (especially since this is allegedly inspired by a true story), it is not a bad show. This is just the pilot so it can either get better, or it can get worse.

Disclaimer: I didn’t really fact-check this review because I figured a TV show that was not fact-checked very well deserves a proportional amount of (non-)fact-checking.

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