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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.

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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.