CBS’ ill-fated fall launch, Pure Genius, was “caught between two different shows,” and that in part led to its truncated freshman season and likely cancellation, says series star Augustus Prew.
Pure Genius followed James Bell, a tech whiz determined to use his vast fortune and high-tech expertise to solve medical mysteries. It premiered last October to 6.2 million total viewers and an anemic 1.0 demo rating, and at the time it was denied a Back 9 order it had slipped below the average that got Elementary bumped from Thursday to Sunday. (Elementary’s immediate successor, Rush Hour, averaged a 0.9 before getting banished to a Saturday burn-off.) By the time of its 13th episode/season finale, Pure Genius had slipped to 5.2 mil/0.7.
“That was my first stab at having a show with me being the sort of lead role in it [opposite Dermot Mulroney], and the experience was amazing,” Prew shared with TVLine during an interview about his role on Fox’s Prison Break, which he filmed last spring before diving into Pure Genius.
“But if I’m being honest, I think we got caught between two different shows,” the English actor continued, offering his diagnosis of the medical drama’s ills. “I think CBS wanted something a little more procedural, and [executive producer] Jason [Katims, of Friday Night Lights/Parenthood fame] wanted something a little more character-driven.”
Prew also speculates that the show wasn’t allowed enough time to smooth his socially inept genius’ rough edges. “I think we fell into the trap of potentially James was not likeable enough, initially — but there was a huge payoff coming down the line, when James learns and becomes a better person,” said his portrayer. “That was the journey we never got to see, unfortunately.”
But mostly, while on air, the series suffered because of its split personality. “CBS and Jason had slightly different visions of what they wanted the show to be, and as a consequence we weren’t enough of either, if that make sense,” Prew said. “If it’s going to be a procedural, we should have done a procedural and taken out of the character development. And if it was going to be about these characters and their lives and coming to terms with their own mortality — which is what I wanted the show to be about — we should have pushed that further.”
Alas, in committing to neither extreme, Prew said, “It lost its reason to be. I think that’s where we fell down, if I’m looking at it under a new light.”
Of CBS’ other freshman dramas this season, Bull and MacGyver were renewed, Katherine Heigl’s Doubt was DOA and Training Day — Pure Genius‘ time slot successor — is now finishing its 13-episode run on Saturdays, in the wake of low ratings (and series star Bill Paxton’s death).
Do you agree with Prew’s diagnosis? Was CBS’ Pure Genius “caught” between being two different shows?