THE SERIES “Pure Genius”
WHEN | WHERE Premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. on CBS/2
WHAT IT’S ABOUT James Bell (Augustus Prew) is a high-tech zillionaire who wants to find the cure for everything, and has built a cutting-edge hospital — named Bunker Hill — and assembled a team to help in his quest. The team includes Dr. Scott Strauss (Ward Horton), a neurologist, Angie Cheng (Brenda Song), a 3-D programming expert, Dr. Malik Verlaine (Aaron Jennings), a onetime gangbanger, now trying to monitor poor patients via computer, and Dr. Talaikha Channarayapatra (Reshma Shetty of “Royal Pains”) who is a Bell believer, and also a Bell skeptic. But the zillionaire needs one more piece to complete his perfect puzzle: Ah yes, that would be Dr. Everett Wallace (Dermot Mulroney), whom he wants as chief of staff. Wallace is skeptical, too — at first.
MY SAY Imagine if someone could collect every single fact about cancer. Then imagine someone could assemble out of this Everest-high pile of facts the correct sequence of facts that could lead to a cure for cancer. James Bell — played with considerable brio by a talented 29-year-old British actor and the exuberantly theatrical name to prove it — wants to be that “someone.”
Bell believes in Big Data — the bigger, the better. He’s like the Joel Osteen of Data, and insists that facts need only be massaged by gadgets — also the cooler the better — which will then magically yield an answer to just about anything.
There’s a little bit of Steve Jobs in this portrayal and a little bit of Bill Gates, too. He’s also someone you’d be tempted to push into oncoming traffic. Brash, obnoxious and bumptious, he slings the sort of corporate-speak balderdash that could fit onto gum wrappers: “No one is a passive presence in this hospital!” “I will not accept there’s not a way to bend time here!”
Pure genius, indeed. That traffic can’t come soon enough.
But Bell is interesting and so — at least potentially — is this new drama from Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights,” “Parenthood”). Along with Bell, there’s a compelling, cutting-edge idea here that’s nicely — or slickly — matched to the visuals. Those are mostly those CGI gadgets, or Bell’s toys. They flash, beep, spin and dazzle and almost seem to heal the patient before you know what they actually do (if anything). While they quickly “mine” the data, the results don’t appear to be much better than a simple Google search might turn up. But at Bunker Hill, if something looks good, then it is good.
“Pure Genius” seems to set up the usual opposition — good old human intuition versus the sheer blunt force of technology — and you can maybe guess which side prevails. Mulroney’s Wallace is steady and cautious, or the turtle to Bell’s hare. Patients arrive with incurable diseases, and after a few tearful setbacks, they’re cured by the last commercial break.
So is all credit due to the turtle or hare? In the pilot, both actually, and that’s the compelling idea. Big Data might not find the cure for cancer, but it does appear to be an intriguing premise for a network hospital drama.
BOTTOM LINE Marred by the usual hospital prime-time melodramatics, “Pure Genius” is still a compelling idea matched to a superior cast.