Wisdom of the Crowd
When I finished watching Person of Interest, I was on the prowl for a replacement. Lo’ and behold, someone mentioned that a new show might be able to fill that void called Wisdom of the Crowd. Skeptically optimistic, I scheduled and watched the premier this past Sunday and was simultaneously intrigued and let down with the results. Wisdom of the Crowd could turn into a popular show for CBS, but it could also fall flat on its face as just another Law & Order/perp of the week indulgence, lacking any actual substance for viewers to stick around. Truth be told, I had similar concerns about Person of Interest after the first few episodes. Without major spoilers, let’s dive into what Wisdom of the Crowd has to offer us each week, shall we?
We open with a video of Mark Zucker… I mean… Jeffrey Tanner’s daughter, who was apparently murdered nearly one year ago on this date. Cut to Faceboo… errr… AllSourcer headquarters in Silicon Valley, where Jeffrey is about to sell his empire for next to nothing. The reason? He doesn’t believe the person convicted of his daughter’s murder is actually guilty, so he has built an app, called Messen… damn it… Sophe, which will crowdsource crime solving in order to find her murderer. Oh, and to entice people to help, Jeffrey is offering a $100M reward. Personally, I get the feeling that people would have no issues spying on strangers even without the reward, since, as Jeffrey points out a few times, “People want to be part of something meaningful” or, at least, something currently relevant. If he sincerely believed this, there would be no reason to offer the ridiculously large reward in the first place, so this seems a bit counterintuitive.
Immediately, I was prepared to report this show as spam because, in order for evidence to be admissible in court, it needs to be properly vetted and crowdsourced sleuthing could be a gray area courts would need to thoroughly examine. As a result of an app like this, I could easily see a law being passed outlawing evidence of this nature, simply because the methods employed by private citizens, currently, are not as limited as those by law enforcement. Additionally, there is the concern about tampering with evidence. The writers, seemingly, took the path of least resistance and gloss over this with Jeffrey’s right-hand’s assurance to an officer that, “The chain of evidence is clear for any evidence posted on the site.” Oh, ok. Thank you, counselor. I suppose that’s enough of a guarantee that the system is adequately secure. I have to agree with the writer’s subsequent assessment about the possible invasion of privacy from the app in Jeffrey’s comment that, “We gave that up a long time ago, so we could watch cat videos on our phone.” In order to avoid public panic and incorrect information being disseminated, such as the wrong person being identified as the culprit, the programmers, “vet any evidence before it’s posted.” Of course, almost as quickly as these explanations are provided, a hacker breaks into the system and posts additional evidence, identifying a poor ride-sharing driver, who winds up in the hospital after vigilantes take the law into their own hands. I have to give a special shout-out to the writers for spectacularly stereotyping the hacker by showing a slovenly male, sitting in front of a mess of computer screens and wires, lounging in his mother’s basement. They even punctuate the scene by having him yell upstairs with a mouthful of food, “Ma!” I suppose we can take a bit of solace in the fact that he wasn’t overweight.
The story does actually unravel in interesting fashion, with people discussing various aspects of the case online as each piece of evidence is posted, while the app weeds through everything and decides what is #fakenews… well, actual evidence. Soon enough, evidence emerges of a different crime by, potentially, another criminal and, now, we have a weekly TV show. Breadcrumbs have already been dropped for the overall story arch of Jeffrey’s daughter, a criminal of the week, personal relationship issues, coworker disagreements, legal issues, as well as difficulties keeping the operation running with the limited resources available; Jeffrey did sell his stake in AllSourcer for pennies on the dollar, after all. The writers needed to create all of this backstory in order for the entire series to have some semblance of depth, but this first episode set a painful, plodding pace, in stark contrast to Person of Interest. For me, it was interesting enough to grant the show at least another two episodes, which is my prevailing measuring stick for new shows. However, thus far, the writers have failed miserably at making me care about any of the characters. Jeffrey lost his daughter, for crying out loud, and, yet, I don’t feel even a shred of empathy for him. The person I feel most connected to is his girlfriend slash partner in this Sophe venture because she stood up to Jeffrey and defended one of her employees. Exciting, right? By the way, if you’re wondering where you know her from, she played Osha in Game of Thrones and, I must say, she has cleaned up nicely since then.
The next two episodes will be critical to getting people to talk about it and get their friends to watch. Otherwise, I suspect this show will be short-lived as it absolutely is not Person of Interest and would make a terrible Law & Order. I’d even go so far as to say it would have made a decent episode (or two) on Law & Order. Critics are panning the show, but it pulled in relatively strong ratings and won the night. The question is whether or not they’ll tune in next week or if they, too, were expecting more Person of Interest and less… this.