Watching Limitless the movie isn’t a prerequisite for tuning into Limitless the TV series, but it certainly helps in immediately understanding the concept of the series. The 2011 sci-fi film starred Bradley Cooper as a novelist struggling with writers block who takes a pill known as NZT and immediately begins functioning mentally on an unheard of level. Instead of using just 20% of his brain, he’s firing on all cylinders and using 100% while under the influence of the drug. In the series, it’s Jake McDorman as a struggling musician who pops the pill and has a life-changing experience.
CBS debuted Limitless on September 22, 2015 at 9pm ET/PT following weeks of commercials leading up to the premiere teasing Bradley Cooper’s appearance in the series. And Cooper, who is an executive producer on the show, does appear in the first episode, albeit very briefly. McDorman’s front and center of the series, but Cooper’s passing of the torch in the pilot episode actually worked well to not only connect the TV series to the film but also to lend his stamp of approval to the show and its star.
McDorman plays Bradley Finch, a decent enough guy, 30ish and still struggling with his music while working temp jobs. He used to be part of a band but over the years everyone deserted the group to take on 9 to 5 jobs in order to earn a living. Bradley’s still plugging away, but the creative juices don’t flow like they did when he was in his 20s. And while his parents are still supportive of his desire to be a musician, Bradley’s fully aware he’s not living up to their expectations.
That changes when he temps at an office where one of his old bandmates, Eli, works. Over lunch, Bradley confesses that he’s hit a block with his songwriting and Eli, wanting to help out an old friend, gives him a NZT pill. The effects are immediate, but Bradley handles them surprisingly well. His main goal now that he’s temporarily a genius is to research what illness his dad is suffering from, because the doctors have thus far not been able to settle on a diagnosis and his dad’s condition is rapidly deteriorating.
Bradley’s new increased level of intelligence also lands him in the middle of a murder case. The FBI tag him as a killer, but Agent Rebecca Harris (Jennifer Carpenter) actually believes his bizarre story and works with him to find the real killer and clear Bradley’s name.
Of course, this murder case is only the first in what will be a long-term partnership between McDorman’s Bradley and Carpenter’s Agent Harris, if the series catches on. The chemistry is there, with McDorman and Carpenter working well off of each other. The visual effects used to allow the audience to see Bradley’s mind connecting the dots add a surreal, twilight zone-ish vibe to the show (there’s even a bizarre clip of a baby talking while still in the womb). The effects are trippy, which works perfectly since Bradley’s supposed to be in an altered state of mind.
Limitless‘ pilot episode did a good job of introducing Bradley, Agent Harris, and Bradley’s family as well as setting up how Bradley will use his elevated level of intelligence going forward. McDorman’s charming (and talented) enough to handle the lead, and he was at his best in episode one when Bradley was attempting to wrap his mind around a problem and connect the dots to find a solution. As long as the writers remember to keep the NZT angle prominent in every episode and not let the show become just another procedural crime drama, Limitless has a shot at not only sticking around for a full season but becoming a must-see series.
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