"Person of Interest" will premiere this Thursday Sept. 22, 2011...

"Person of Interest" will premiere this Thursday Sept. 22, 2011 on the CBS Television Network. Credit: CBS

THE SHOW "Person of Interest"

WHEN | WHERE Thursday at 9 p.m. on CBS/2

REASON TO WATCH Highly anticipated New York-based series from Jonathan Nolan ("The Dark Knight") and J.J. Abrams ("Lost").

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Add the word "panopticon" to your vocabulary. It's a system whereby many people are observed at all times, without them knowing it. That's the premise of this thriller about a tough-as-hell former CIA agent, Reese (Jim Caviezel), who left the service sometime after 9/11 because the government lied to him.

In the premiere, he's hired by a mysterious billionaire, Finch (Michael Emerson), who wants him to stop crimes before they happen. How does Finch know about these potential crimes? Because he has access to a panopticon.

MY SAY High-tech panopticons are absolutely possible. For all we know, we're being observed right now. Google the words "Trailblazer" and "ThinThread" -- a pair of extraordinary post-9/11 National Security Agency programs that are, in fact, panopitcons -- and you realize that the core premise of "Person of Interest" is not that much of a stretch.

Nevertheless, you'll still want to adopt a willing suspension of disbelief before embarking on this interesting journey. There are some logical disconnects that verge on kooky, or (worse) standard-issue prime-time melodrama. "POI" is, in fact, your basic CBS cop drama: Bad guys get capped by the good guys before the final commercial break, though not before that Unexpected Plot Twist before the next-to-last commercial. (Bizarrely, it's not unlike the premise of "Charlie's Angels" -- the avenger under orders from an eccentric billionaire.)

But besides the sumptuous New York setting, the pleasures of "POI" are the leads. One of the great character actors of modern television, Emerson (Ben Linus on "Lost") is very much in character here. That stoic mask hides all sorts of dark secrets. Caviezel ("The Passion of the Christ"), meanwhile, has channeled a harrowing Clint Eastwood make-my-day persona. Believe me, you don't want to make his day.

BOTTOM LINE A gritty, almost plausible winner, and distant reflection of Stephen Spielberg's "Minority Report."


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