Pilotitis 2014: Scorpion

Elyes Gabel and Katherine McPhee seem dubious about starring in Scorpion on CBS.
Scorpion (Photo: CBS)

The new CBS procedural Scorpion is hardly genius, but that doesn’t mean you won’t like it.


Scorpion, which airs at 9pm Mondays on CBS.


Scorpion refers to a team of computer geeks experts who work in the Department of Homeland Security’s cyber defense office. However, this team is comprised of nerds of the highest order, who need the help of a waitress (Katherine McPhee) who understands geniuses1 to help them overcome social awkwardness. Think of it as the procedural version of The Big Bang Theory.


The series is loosely based on the true story of Walter O’Brien, played by Elyes Gabel. The show was created by Nick Santora, whose résumé includes writing/producing shows such as Law & OrderPrison Break, and Lie to Me.

Who is Scorpion For?

Nerds of all persuasions who miss The A-Team.

What Works

The most important thing about a show as high-concept as this is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and Scorpion toes that line well. The climax of the pilot was a hybrid of the climaxes of Fast & Furious 6 and Independence Day—both in terms of action and plausibility.

As for the character work, there’s great interplay between the members of the team, though Kat McPhee plays the audience surrogate role (for good and for ill).

What Doesn’t Work

Sylvester (Ari Stidham) is the “human calculator” of the group and continuously spouts out meaningless statistics about failure rates throughout the pilot episode. It adds more annoyance than tension to the proceedings and needs to be dropped as a trope. Perhaps this is to distract from the parade of plot devices used to fill out the hour.

Oh, and the CGI looks terrible.

Does This Pass the Bechdel Test?2

Don’t hold your breath. There were three female characters in the pilot, none of whom interacted with the other two. I’m sure we’ll get a statistical analysis at some point as to why that is.


The show is really dumb, but not as offensive as other CBS fare. This is what I was hoping for when Intelligence debuted (and flopped) earlier this year, so I will be sticking with it for the time being.

  1. Let that sink in.  
  2. 1. Two named female characters 2. have a conversation 3. about something other than a man.  

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About Mike McComb 1069 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv
  • Clare Snyder

    I THOUGHT those were the vacant, uninspired eyes of Katharine McPhee! (I am starting to think we should have a “Katharine McPhee” tag on the site.)