Pilot Perception: Limitless

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Limitless, CBS in the U.S. and Global in Canada, Tuesdays at 10/9c

The Pedigree: Based on the 2011 movie of the same name, Limitless was created for TV by Craig Sweeny (Elementary), who wrote the pilot and executive produces with movie star Bradley Cooper, Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci (Fringe), Heather Kadin (Scorpion), and Todd Phillips (The Hangover). Marc Webb (Battleground) directed the pilot.

The Cast & How You Know Them: Limitless stars Jake McDorman (Greek), Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), Hill Harper (Covert Affairs), and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Grimm). Bradley Cooper, star of the original movie, recurs.

The Premise: Regular guy Brian takes a brain-enhancing drug called NZT and is manipulated into working with the FBI to help them solve cases while they study him and try to figure out why he doesn’t suffer from the same side effects as other NZT users. The reason has to do with a politician (Bradley Cooper, playing his character from the movie) who also uses NZT and is using Brian for his own somewhat mysterious purposes.

A Taste:


What Works: The cast has good chemistry; there were some genuinely funny moments between the characters and I’m curious to learn more about them, especially Rebecca. I’m also interested in the political angle and what exactly the Bradley Cooper character is up to — this is the relatively rare case where the overarching conspiracy plot is pulling me in more than the weekly procedural aspects, at least so far.

What Doesn’t: My main issue with the pilot was that when the main character can acquire any knowledge or skills he needs simply by taking a pill, watching him solve cases really kind of boring. Make him work for it a little! It will be interesting to see whether and how this is tempered going forward. I also thought the characters were all a bit too credulous, but that can probably be chalked up to needing to establish the world and situation quickly. This pilot had the same issue most of them seem to have this year — it wasn’t terrible; it made me think “fine, I guess” but didn’t leave me particularly excited to see more.

Our Favorite Line: “Do you know how much time we get off in the Senate? It’s shocking, really. I don’t know if I can give it up.”

You Might Like This if you like action procedurals with a sci-fi bent and a dash of conspiracy. The set-up — likeable underachiever suddenly becomes smartest guy in the world and the government wants his help — reminded me a lot of Chuck.

If You’re Interested: CBS is rerunning the pilot on Saturday at 8/7c, or catch it on demand or on CBS or Global site. Then set your DVR for Tuesday at 10/9c.

(Photo courtesy of CBS.)

One thought on “Pilot Perception: Limitless

  1. We thought the pilot was good with a lot of promise. My husband & I were taking about comments we read online about the dislike of “oh, take a pill & you don’t have to work for anything” vibe, but we’ve decided to view it as a “fantasy” story as if a character finds they have the ability to do magic. Your “make him work for it” comment reflected our “as long as there are rules to a magic & it’s not a ‘too easy’ cure-all, we’d give it a chance and see how it goes.

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