Guest Post by Adrian Crawford
In 2011, Neil Burger’s pseudo-sci-fi suspense drama Limitless was released to a surprisingly favorable response. The film starred Bradley Cooper as Eddie Mora, a down-on-his luck writer who stumbles upon a drug that enables him to tap into the full potential of the human brain (specifically, of course, his own). Mora’s experience with the drug, which is called NZT, takes him to new heights both professionally and socially. However, its negative effects, both in the form of withdrawal and the envy it inspires in others, quickly threaten to outweigh the positives.
Really, the concept was a little bit cheesy, and the decision to place Cooper in the main role was bolder than it might seem in retrospect. In 2011, Cooper was not quite the serious actor we regard him as today, but rather still “the guy from The Hangover” trying to make his way in film beyond comedy. As it turned out, however, Cooper was fantastic. Also, a supporting cast headlined by Abbie Cornish and Robert De Niro helped to spin a cheesy subject into a genuinely compelling film. Rotten Tomatoes lists Limitless with a 70% favorability rating among critics, with 74% of viewers having rated it positively.
Fast-forward four years, and here we are looking not at a sequel for the cinema, but a CBS adaptation that will turn the Limitless concept into a television drama. The show will premiere on Sept. 22, and in the meantime here’s our preview of some of the most interesting factors at play.
Undoubtedly the factor most people will have their eyes on is the transition of Bradley Cooper to television. While the protagonist of the series will be a character named Brian Finch (played by Jake McDorman), Cooper will be reprising his role as Eddie Mora, making him the latest major film actor to dabble in television. According to Deadline, Cooper “intends to appear as much as his schedule permits,” indicating he’s truly interested in seeing this project through. Evidently, the show will pick up where the film left off, with Mora having used his improved mental capacity to chase political ambition, and Sinclair likely following in his footsteps.
The appearance of Cooper on a CBS drama comes on the heels of TV roles for cinematic superstars like Jeff Daniels (in The Newsroom), Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey (in True Detective’s first season), and Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, and Rachel McAdams (in True Detective’s second season). While it’s unknown yet just how often he’ll be on screen, it’s a certainty that he’ll command audience attentions whenever he’s around.
As to what sort of drama will actually unfold in the TV continuation of Limitless, a CBS synopsis reveals that the primary focus will be on Finch’s work with the FBI. Working closely with FBI officials while also becoming a sort of protege for Mora (who will indeed be a senator en route to a presidential run), Finch will apparently become an indispensable asset for the bureau, thanks entirely to his usage of the NZT drug and resulting boost in cognitive ability.
Until the premiere actually arrives, that’s about all we’ve got on the content and structure of the show. Although, there’s one other interesting development that’s already occurred, and it’s that Limitless has a game. It’s a sort of cognitive test built on a combination of reading speed and show trivia, meant to see just how “limitless” players are. It’s a simple concept for now, but it’s actually pretty unique if you think about it.
Typically, video games do not accompany cable dramas, but rather mainstream films. And yet, a lot of the movie-based video games that do exist out there are built around the exact type of concepts—namely, casino experiences and card games—that a character on NZT might seek to manipulate. On the Betfair site, where so many movie-based casino games have found a home over the years, users can enjoy experiences based on Marvel superheroes, literary icons like Sherlock Holmes, and others, all with the accompanying promotional bonuses and real money gaming integration. These games are ultimately standard casino entertainment, but they make use of popular characters in their own unique ways.
With so much popular fiction tied in with this particular style of gaming coupled with the fact that a cognitive Limitless game already exists, it makes one wonder if the new show could be a rare exception: a TV drama with real potential in gaming and elsewhere in entertainment. The Limitless test could easily branch out to include other quizzes and puzzles, as well as card games, arcade experiences and the like, all of which are already, to varying degrees, testing our brains.
Currently, that’s just speculation. More than likely, the Limitless game is merely a fun tool CBS is using to help promote the show. But the nature of the subject matter, should the show become popular, is very conducive to a style of entertainment that already has close ties to popular fiction.
Either way, I can’t wait to see the new Limitless. I’m beyond excited to see Bradley Cooper on TV, and I’ll be trying to max out my score on the Limitless test pretty much from now until the premiere!