J.J. Abrams' Person of Interest, By the Numbers: Our Fall TV First Impression

The broadcast networks have more than 30 shows debuting this fall, including Charlie’s reborn Angels, homecomings for Sarah Michelle Gellar and Rachel Bilson, and no less than two series set in the ’60s. To help you prep for fall, TVLine is offering First Impressions based on the not-for-review pilots. Next up….

THE SHOW | CBS’ Person of Interest (Thursdays at 9/8c, premiering Sept. 22)

THE COMPETITION | ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, Fox’s Bones, NBC’s The Office/Whitney (new), and The CW’s The Secret Circle (new)

THE CAST | Michael Emerson (Lost), Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ), Taraji P. Henson (Boston Legal) and Kevin Chapman (Brotherhood)

Read TVLine’s First Impressions of Fox’s New Girl, ABC’s Once Upon a Time, The CW’s Ringer, CBS’ 2 Broke Girls and NBC’s The Playboy Club

THE SET-UP | Caviezel plays John Reese, a presumed-dead ex-CIA agent/Special Forces operative who is living under the radar (and beneath a homeless man’s beard) when he is recruited by the mysterious Mr. Finch (Emerson) to help stop crimes before they happen. In the vein of Minority Report (though minus the precogs dipped in goo), Finch has access to a machine that routinely spits out the Social Security number of someone who is about to commit a violent crime or be the victim — there’s no telling which. Finch has the wealth and resources to act on these tips, while tough guy Reese has the know-how. Making vigilantism A-OK: Finch isn’t a fan of guns, so Reese shoots a lot of punks in the leg.

THE GOOD | Let’s start with the pedigree: J.J. Abrams (Fringe) is among the executive producers, as is Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight), who also penned the pilot. As for the cast: When the going gets tough — and in the pilot, that is often — Caviezel gets the “steely action hero” job done, delivering an odd hybrid of Clint Eastwood and Eric Roberts. Emerson is appropriately enigmatic, parsing out cryptic bits in a way that would drive John Locke bonkers. (“[The Machine] wouldn’t be steering us toward her if it wasn’t seeing something.”) Henson is solid in her only big scene, confronting Reese about his mad hand-to-hand combat skillz. Some of the espionage tech that is employed (e.g. a gizmo that turns a target’s cell phone into a 24/7 microphone) is nifty, and presumably (?) fictional. New York City, versus some Vancouver poser, shows well.

THE… COULD-BE-BETTER | I had an interesting experience with this pilot. Upon my first viewing, I thought, ‘OK, this is curious enough, and the action scenes are very well-done. Let the nitpickers fret over the shaky science behind Finch’s ‘Machine.’ I’m buckling in for the ride.” Then, as I rewatched it… the Machine began to bug me a bit. Because really, what combination of Visa Card purchases, Lincoln Tunnel toll booth swipes and eavesdropped phone calls is going to flag me as a future crime target? (At least the gooey precogs were, you know, precogs.) So while I’m set to tune in, I’m torn as to whether Person of Interest should delve deeper into the Machine’s machinery or never speak of it again. UPDATE 8/3: The producers have since addressed my concern about The Machine.

Fall 2011 TV Grid: Where Did Your Favorite Shows Land?

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | CBS is betting big on this Person, deeming it worthy to claim the relocated CSI‘s old time slot and take some shots at seven-year-old Grey’s, an in-transition Office, and what portends to be a strong if intermittent season of Bones. (Of note, the network told reporters that the pilot scored the highest marks from test audiences since Chicago Hope circa 1994.) Definitely one of those shows I’ll need to see another episode or two to fully assay.

Watch a video preview for Person of Interest, then vote in our poll below.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Alexis says:

    I heard CBS bragging that this apparently did extremely well with their test audiences, so I’m cautiously optimistic…
    It seems a little less cut and dry procedural than most of CBS’s current line up so I’ll give it a shot.

  2. mes says:

    I think it will do great against The Office, Grey’s and Bones will be a little trickier

  3. steve says:

    This is the show im most looking forward to this fall. It seems the only nitpick you have with it is the science behind the machine. Most if not every single TV show you probable could come up with something that just isnt plausible. So if thats the only thing you could fault which seems to be the case im still very much looking forward to it

  4. Jack says:

    This article says that ad agencies expect it to do very well. http://geekfurious.blogspot.com/2011/07/ad-agencies-predict-next-seasons.html

  5. Em says:

    This just makes me miss Jack Bauer.

  6. topoopon says:

    This will be the first CBS show I’ve watched since “Threshold” was cancelled.

  7. J. Norman says:

    Sounds a bit like “Bruce Wayne (without bothering to wear the costume) meets Early Edition”
    CBS obviously thinks highly of it to give it the 9:00 Thursday spot.
    I’ll give it a look.

    • G-Mom says:

      Yes, it reminds me of “Early Edition”, too. I am a big fan of Jim Caviezel so I hope it does well. I just hope he changes to his own voice and sounds less like Clint Eastwood. We don’t need another “Dirty Harry”.

    • maggie says:

      I thought of Early Edition too. That’s where I first got my crush on Kyle Chandler.

    • GeekGirl13 says:

      It also calls to mind Equalizer for me. Given that Equalizer is one of my all time favorite shows I definitely want to check this out. Hate that it is in the same time slot as Bones and Greys.

      • bryan hayes says:

        im looking forward to this, and yes i grew up in the 70’s and 80’s so this does remind me of the equalizer, early edition don’t know where ppl get that… hopefully tv will start getting flooded again with action adventure shows.. and dark vigilantes…

  8. emmitwest says:

    Promising as “we really thought people would watch us instead of ER?” Chicago Hope!?


  9. Kristy says:

    The “pedigree” is why I’ll be checking it out. There’s a LOT of talent there…and well to quote the old phrase “I’d watch Michael Emerson read the phone book”….so yeah I’ll be checking it out.

  10. Emily says:

    You had me at Michael Emerson! Can’t wait for this show!

    • forrest says:

      Lost devotees recognized this immediately as a role Emerson has already originated as Ben Linus with Sayid the assasin. Abrams has the blueprint and is applying it to the ‘non-island’ world. Couldn’t be more excited that Nolan is participating in this project. Yes, hopefully, the machine will not be a major stumbling block for what could be a great action drama.

      • Heather says:

        But without Sayid’s angst in it all and without the ultimate Jacob manipulation. Hmmmmm can’t wait to see how it plays out

  11. deedeedragons says:

    Who would create such a pointlessly vague machine???

  12. nitemar says:

    Many shows that looked great initially,got bombed and cancelled, some after few episodes(Lone cough* Star). It’s all in the concept, the writing and the network. This one looks really good. Fingers crossed. :)

  13. Justin says:

    Meh. This is a procedural, which automatically turns me off. However, this is about the only procedural, well, ever, that actually sort of piques my interest. I’ll prob give it a shot, but likely wont stick around unless they develop sort of over-arching story.

  14. Heather says:

    Jesus is employed by Ben Linus? Wait… I swear Ben worked for Jacob… I’m now so confused.

  15. Babygate says:

    I love Jim Caviezel and was looking forward to this show until I found out it’s against Grey’s Anatomy which is still my number 1 fave so I will not be watching live, but I may catch it on Hulu because it does look interesting.

  16. Larry Page says:

    I’m a “Person of Interest” of this show.

  17. Sarah says:

    Am I the only one who is reminded of Wanted with all of this? (the machine mostly but hey if Reese wants to go shooting curved bullets, I’m all for it). I’ll be watching this live until November and then I’ll have to figure out if I’m going to do Bones live or continue PoI live. Either way, I’m excited for my Thursday night line up.

    • Liz says:

      I thought of Wanted as well. On that level, the “machine” device is a bit of a gamble; I enjoyed Wanted the first time through but couldn’t tolerate it a second time because the loom seemed so ridiculous.

  18. Max says:

    Why video not available in my country? (Canada) Really wanted to check it out?

  19. Marisa says:

    They had me at Michael Emerson, I’ll follow him anywhere! Too bad Terry O’Quinn couldn’t be in THIS instead of H50.

    • Bob says:

      Well, if dumb-a** NBC had picked up Abrams’ “Odd Jobs”, then you’d have all three. They “delayed” it for a year, allowing the two to get other shows. So unless both shows don’t make it this season, you won’t see “Odd Jobs” with them, or at all.

  20. heather_kaye says:

    I am super excited for this – another vote for M. Emerson in ANYTHING – and will even be delaying my Office viewing on Thursday nights for this. And, folks, that hasn’t happened in five years. Just saying – very excited.

  21. Kevin says:

    PERSON OF INTEREST vs. GREY’S ANATOMY. This is someting new to watch out for this Fall.

    • Liz says:

      Personally, I think this has the potential to steal the most viewers from Bones, The Office second, and then Grey’s after that. Whitney doesn’t have much of a chance in that time slot and Secret Circle will draw from a different demographic.

  22. Amy says:

    I will give anything Michael Emerson is in a try.

  23. s says:

    It sort of reminds me of the U.K.’s MI5/Spooks series.

  24. Lucifer says:

    It had me at Michael Emerson & JJ Abrams! Definitely going to watch this show!

  25. Jeff says:

    This sounds like a bad Quantum Leap re-write, complete with ziggy the magic machine. Bring back Scott Bakula

  26. hru says:

    I always had to DVR Bones because of CSI. Now I will get to watch both first hand. NO interest in Persons at all

  27. Guest says:

    I already have DVR scheduling conflicts from taping Grey’s, Office, and Bones. There is nothing in this show that interests me enough to watch it over one of the those shows.

  28. TinLV says:

    There is a lot of talent tied up in this show and I love Caviezel. At least it isn’t another CSI type show. I am so sick of crime labs and autopsies. That said, it’s going to have a tough time beating the competion in that time slot. Let’s hope, if it is really good, they will move it to another slot so it will have a chance to survive.

  29. teepee says:


  30. lll says:

    Now that fall 2011 season is over, I would like to congraduate person of interest for a second sesaon. It’s definitely different from the other CBS shows (saving lives/stopping crime as opposed to solving it) and it deserves to be the show that sets a new standard to the tried-and-true CBS formula (that works by the way).

  31. CBECL says:

    Very informative post. The pictures are fine. The comments are also great. Thank you for good writing.