It’s not often that I recommend watching a network television show.
It was way back in 1961 that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Newton Minow ironically called commercial television programming “a vast wasteland.”
Ironic, because TV programming wasn’t vast back then – and, by today’s standards, anything but a wasteland. Many of us look back on those “good old days” with nostalgia – and many of those shows are still running in syndication or on cable networks.
Today, with all the channels and nothing to watch, the vast wasteland has indeed arrived.
But there are some notable exceptions from time to time.
There’s one I would wholeheartedly recommend – a great concept, well-executed, entertaining and redemptive. It’s called “Person of Interest,” and it is racking up impressive ratings on CBS.
It stars Jim Caviezel as a former special forces soldier and CIA field officer who is presumed dead and Michael Emerson as Harold Finch, a reclusive billionaire who developed a computer program to track terrorists and predict their next moves.
Think of it as “24,” but instead of Jack Bauer saving the world every week, John Reese (Caviezel) saves one person.
I got hooked recently and have now gone back and watched every episode, most of which you can find on CBS.com.
It’s still pretty new, so don’t get left behind. The show debuted Sept. 22, and, because of phenomenal numbers, was picked up for a full season Oct. 25. The pilot episode won its time slot with 13.2 million viewers. The show has averaged 13.9 million viewers since.
According to CBS, “Person of Interest” received the highest test ratings of any drama pilot in the last 15 years – what one CBS executive called “crazy broad appeal you don’t usually see.” The ratings prompted CBS to move “CSI,” which had held the time slot on Thursday night for over 10 years.
Here’s the basic concept for the show: After Finch built his amazing anti-terrorist machine, meant to prevent another 9/11, he discovered that it was also predicting many “irrelevant” tragedies – domestic crimes like murders and kidnappings. The government wasn’t interested in that data – and just deleted it every night (probably the most implausible scenario in the show’s premise). So Finch uses a backdoor into the machine and grabs the Social Security numbers of those likely victims – sometimes perpetrators. He hires Reese to help him investigate these crimes before they happen.
Don’t worry. I haven’t told you anything you won’t pick up in the opening narration of the show each episode in Finch’s voice: “You are being watched. The government has a secret system – a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know because … I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything … violent crimes involving ordinary people; people like you, crimes the government considered irrelevant. They wouldn’t act so I decided I would, but I needed a partner – someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You will never find us. But victim or perpetrator, if your number’s up, we’ll find you.”
Why do I go on and on about a TV show?
Because it’s a light news day.
Because we all need a little good entertainment from time to time.
Because it’s well-done, well-crafted, well-written, well-acted and well-produced – not something you can say very often.
In fact, you might even suggest that is downright newsworthy.
Think about it – a good TV show airs in prime time on CBS.