So I recently came across the show Scorpion on Netflix. At first I had no interest – I had Jessica Jones shaped fish to fry first – but when the premise was described by my sister, well I just had to give it a watch.
If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s about a super genius (Walter O’Brien) and his team of geniuses. They have high IQ but terrible EQ (a point repeated throughout the series.) Homeland security want to contract them for special jobs and in the course of their first adventure they meet and subsequently hire the girl-next-door waitress with the genius son.
Each episode features the following:
- Team solve a problem no one else could.
- Each member of the team uses their own area of expertise (the psychologist always has to read someone, the mechanic whizz always has to build or break something etc.)
- The waitress will prevent disaster by acting as translator between “normal” people and the geniuses (apparently not genii.)
- The geniuses help the waitress connect to her super smart son.
- Someone mentions Walter’s IQ.
- There’s at least one piece of the show that makes no sense.
Do I sound jaded by it all? Well, yes, yes I am. The way I, like many people, consume content these days is by way of binge watching. I especially do it when I’m working. Certain shows need my full attention of course, but Scorpion fits the sweet spot where it’s just about interesting enough to keep watching, but not overly demanding, which is odd. When the series started, I was being pulled in and excited to see how they’d solve each problem. It was all very Macgyver, but, just like Macgyver the situations began to grow samey and it started to become somewhat ludicrous. They avoided jumping the shark in the early episodes because they relied on super human smarts, which was the whole point of the show. But, as the series progressed, suddenly things are happening that would require the super speed of the Flash and Batman levels of training.
Still, I think I would have been OK with it all, if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s based on the life of a real person: Walter O’Brien.
I wasn’t too bothered by this at the start, but then his sister started coming in to the picture. His sister had MS. I have MS. Suddenly it got my attention. I thought it was beautiful to have this genius confronted with MS and to be baffled, because it’s one of those conditions where all the experts are pretty baffled. Sure, they know what it does when it does it, but they don’t know why and they can’t predict it. It’s one illness where you genuinely can’t compare your condition with anyone else. It’s also a condition that has a laundry list of possible triggers. So, yes, I decided to look up Walter O’Brien and see if he really has a sister with MS, or was it something manufactured for TV.
I came up with nothing on his sister, I couldn’t find her mentioned anywhere (and I looked quite hard.) I suspect any reference is flooded by chat about the show, though even my digging should produced something. I’m not sure if he has a sister, there are so many reasons she could be absent from the web. Unfortunately what I did find was the history of Walter O’Brien, or at least the supposed history. It seems that so much of what he claims is unproven or kept hidden by non-disclosure agreements. The leap from the real world O’Brien to the character was just too much for me to take, suddenly the whole show started to unravel. The real O’Brien is an executive producer and apparently a story consultant, so every off moment in the show just irritated me.
First off, the Irish flashbacks. Yes, O’Brien is Irish, but he’s from Wexford. It’s one of the most southern parts of Ireland, so why oh why were the flashbacks full of actors putting on really bad Northern Ireland accents? Any Irish person is to be bugged by that, would the Irish exec producer not have said “actually, can we use some decent Irish accents for this?”
Then we get to all the James Bond style action the lead character gets up to. I’m not just talking about solving problems, this guy gets physical to the point where Jason Bourne would give a head nod of acknowledgement. There’s such a feeling of legend building here. I’ll be honest, I’d feel embarrassed to put my name to a show supposedly based on my life but portraying me as some sort of ninja James Bond character. This is all “based on” stuff, not “inspired by.”
Next we have the cast. There’s one point where they go into a building and ask for the “people like us” and then say “show us the people with faces for radio.” I’m sorry, they’re all good looking. The Walter O’Brien character is a veritable hunk, albeit not a musclebound one. Look at Big Bang Theory, yes, I would accept that those guys have issues about their appearance, but hey, sometimes comedies are more self aware. I’m not, of course saying that you have to be unattractive to be a genius, but you kinda do when you keep referencing it.
So, “who cares” you may say. “It’s a TV show.” You’d be 100% right. It’s the claim to real life that gets me. And, I guess the way they’re playing out the MS angle is now also getting to me. It’s all about “she’s probably definitely probably going to die.” The only one saying the sister is going to live is O’Brien, because he won’t give up and is looking for a cure (by doing research to earn money to do research, rather than actually going straight for the MS research…) I know MS is different for everybody (as I said above) and there are different types, but the show has her as bright and bubbly and then quite quickly you can see she’s dead. That’s not how it works, if you’re going to die from it it’s normally a slow gradual horrible thing. At first I really liked the MS angle, but the more they brought it in, the more she made jokes about dying (if I was dying, I would definitely crack jokes about it,) I got annoyed. You’ll often see right-to-die campaigners with MS, people who want to die with dignity because life has become an ever increasing torture. I dunno, maybe I’d be OK with the A-Team style adventures if there wasn’t an inevitability of death due to MS subplot.
I actually quite like Scorpion, despite my complaints. The episodes start to blend together a bit and quickly lose any credibility the earlier ones may have had, but hey, it’s still something to keep part of my brain occupied while I’m plotting world domination 😀
PS – I’m not dying anytime soon. Hopefully 😉