IN one sense Ten’s new Limitless is like a superhero series.
It features a crime-fighting character with heightened abilities, in this case because he takes a dangerous drug called NZT.
Limitless takes us firmly into the world of the 2011 film of the same name. This sequel even features cameos by the film’s star Bradley Cooper who reprises his role as Eddie Morra.
However you don’t need to see the film to enjoy this series.
Limitless follows musician Brian Finch (Jake McDorman). He and his mates formed a band. Gradually, though, the others drifted away into “real” work, leaving only Brian playing to dwindling audiences.
Brian hasn’t written a new song for months, though he tells his dad he has a new album coming out. When his dad collapses with an illness no one can diagnose, Brian is devastated.
Then on a new, boring temp job Brian runs into one of his former band mates Eli, now a Wall Street suit, who gives him a “jump start” to create new songs – a drug called NZT.
The super pill allows Brian to access more of his brain, represented by a second version of Brian “popping out” and holding a conversation with him.
Pretty soon he’s hitting the medical books to uncover what’s wrong with his dad.
Brian even experiments with his abilities, in one scene grabbing a guitar from a busker and ripping out music that draws a big crowd.
He also seems to develop Sherlock-like abilities to deduct.
The drug, though, has terrible side-effects. When it wears off, Brian is dreadfully ill, worse than any hangover. And each time he uses it, it gets worse.
Trouble is, when the Wall St friend is murdered for his NZT stash, Brian is flung right into the middle of a conspiracy.
It brings him to the attention of the FBI, led by Agent Rebecca Harris (Jennifer Carpenter of Dexter).
The FBI thinks Brian is a murder suspect and hunts him. When he goes after the real killer, he’s shot.
Enter Morra and Bradley Cooper. While some unnamed nurse patches Brian up, Bradley explains about the drug, offering Brian a bargain that means he can keep taking it along with a potion that will stop the side-effects.
Of course we’d have a different sort of Fugitive-like series if Brian spends every episode on the run.
So the writers draw him into the FBI fold.
Agent Harris realises he’s not the killer. She also suggests that his abilities can be of use. The FBI, it seems, knows all about NZT after some earlier tests were abandoned when drug takers died.
So the groundwork is laid for what’s ahead of us each week. Brian will work with the FBI solving cases and they’ll run tests on him.
At the same time, some of the FBI characters’ motivations are a bit shady, hinting at perhaps an interesting mythology beneath the crime-of-the-week drama.
Limitless is one of the more promising new series recently unveiled.
While hardly earth-shattering, this is fun and enjoyable; a procedural crime show with a light touch and a likeable sometime-genius.
Jack McDorman as Brian has easy good looks and his voice overs as he unfolds his story make him sympathetic rather than silly.
So far the pacing is strong. The writers managed to combine both an origin story with the crime of the week, all in the first episode, by putting Brian front and centre in that crime.
The opening episode whizzes by. Limitless is fascinating and fun, with an “ordinary” amiable hero who becomes something out of the ordinary, a bit like Peter Parker in Spiderman.