This fall is full of new shows across all the major networks. Thanks to a constant rotation of pilots and full series, television is nothing if not ever-changing in nature. Lately though, it’s proven difficult to keep a sci-fi show not called “Doctor Who” on the air for more than one season. Dating all the way back to Firefly, networks have failed to insert a popular science-fiction series in their primetime lineups for more than a season before cancellation takes hold. Currently, the only refuge for the genre on TV is the aptly named SyFy network.
The solution devised by both CBS and FOX in the wake of this seems only natural given the climate in Hollywood right now. Each network has found a popular sci-fi film and reworked it into a brand new series. CBS chose Limitless, while FOX took Minority Report, both clinging to the idea that a reboot is the easiest path to success. This leaves us to ask one question: Which (if any) of these movies will make the better series?
Between Limitless and Minority Report, it’s hard to deny that the latter was the superior film. That being so, the former was certainly no slouch, scoring a solid 70% on Rotten Tomatoes on the back of a stellar performance from Bradley Cooper. It’s worth noting for the show though, that Cooper only shows up briefly in the pilot, as CBS’s series follows the exploits of a new main character.
The premise is similar enough: A man stumbles upon an experimental drug called NZT, and it grants him increased intelligence and cognitive abilities. The only problem thus far has been a commitment to CBS’s more procedural formatting for its programming. As The Atlantic’s review notes, “this format usually requires no originality.”
With much stronger source material, the assumption is that Minority Report would end up the superior show. It’s further helped by its home on FOX, not bound to the CBS crime series format that keeps most of its drama sticking to a “case of the week” storyline. More than all this though, Minority Report is a show that is helped by its creative ambition, far outweighing that of Limitless. Despite The A.V. Club issuing a “C+” letter grade, the review still conceded the sheer potential the show possesses: “A good pilot does more than hook its audience. It also finds a way to teach viewers how to watch, and for a solid six minutes, Minority Report knocks both responsibilities out of the park.”
Even with these positives, the show isn’t without its risks. The basic story follows Dash, one of the three precogs from the original film, now released out into the world to live his life. All the while, Dash continues to have visions of murders in the immediate future, teaming up with a police officer to use his villains to stop his visions from coming true. Essentially, it’s everything Tom Cruise’s character in the movie fought to prevent, and also carries with it the possibility of falling backward into a “murder of the week” plot.
So which one should you watch?
If given the choice of picking one, the clear winner here is Minority Report. It pulls from an already expansive universe, features intriguing characters, and carries a whole host of callbacks to the movie that fans can enjoy throughout its run. On the other side, we have Limitless, a show that’s dumbed down its source content into a police procedural to fit CBS’s wider audience.
In terms of networks holding on to sci-fi shows for the long run, we’ll have to wait and see. Adapting movies could very well be the solution TV has needed, which in turn could act as a double-edged sword. Sure, we’d get long-running science fiction on television. Still, it would diminish the possibility of more original programming in a climate that already features very little of that to begin with. However things go in the near future, our backed horse here is unequivocally Minority Report. Happy watching everyone!
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