The man at the center of CBS’ Wisdom of the Crowd is a maniac. The fact that Jeremy Piven plays this man has little more than a modicum to do with this truth. And to be fair, there’s substantial and sturdy reasoning for Piven’s Jeffrey Tanner, a “notoriously driven” tech entrepreneur, to not be completely stable: a year before the events of the series, his collegiate daughter, Mia (Abigail F. Cowen), was murdered. A suspect, Carlos Ochoa (Ramses Jimenez), was found, arrested, and charged but Tanner believes that they have the wrong man for vague reasons. In response to his loss, Tanner created SOPHE, a “crowdsourced crimefighting” platform that tweets out evidence on serious, ongoing investigations as if they were a Buzzfeed quiz or the Kermit meme.
In the world of this series, this is not only a good idea, but the best idea to solve crimes that ill-equipped or simply dumb law enforcement types are not ready to handle. To an extent, shows like this depend on attacking the legitimacy and seriousness of law enforcement agencies. In this case, the assumption is that what would have certainly been a nationwide manhunt led by several major governmental agencies –including the FBI, more than likely – could not do what a few lucky assholes who happen to have the exact evidence Tanner is looking for at any given moment can. Much of the pilot episode (the only one screened for critics) involves Tanner belittling Detective Cavanaugh (Richard T. Jones), who Tanner quickly proves was wrong in charging Ochoa for Mia’s death.
Tanner lives in Silicon Valley and the show risibly name drops tech buzzwords with zero subtlety. At one point, a driving service is compared to Uber and Lyft, and Tanner got rich off of a “social media aggregator” called AllSourcer. There’s a lot of talk about platforms, likes, hacking, and VPNs, none of which seem to mean much to what’s going on in the show, which is to say there’s much going on at all. There’s one scene where – I swear to god – Tanner compliments Cavanaugh for getting the lobster tacos at the cafeteria in the headquarters for his deranged and wildly illegal social experiment.
The nightmare continues. In a continued bid for timeliness, Tanner talks about not releasing his tax returns while also lamenting the “excruciating detail” that the media extracted from his horror and grief. Never mind that in a year’s time, Tanner has aided a humongous multi-agency investigation, supposedly waded through his grieving, spearheaded the development of a cutting-edge crime-solving platform, done all due diligence with innumerable lawyers and law-enforcement personnel to make sure it’s legal (it’s not), tested and deployed the platform, sold his multi-million dollar company, and struck up a new relationship with his second-in-command, Sarah, played by Game of Thrones veteran Natalia Tena. There are no drugs anywhere in sight, so I have to imagine Tanner derives the Herculean energy to accomplish all of this in the same year his only daughter was murdered from something he calls “the source.”
And yet, SOPHE works, and helps find justice for someone in need. The show, on the other hand, does not work for a second. Even if one were to ignore the absurd earnestness of the show, the total lack of irony, the series wouldn’t even entertain as a parody of itself. SOPHE is bizarre, ridiculous, and comes from a stricken mind but Tanner is treated as a righteous visionary, haunted but still ready for a few glasses of a good red and some fun, casual sex. There is an attempt here to tap into what makes shows like Scorpion and Person of Interest lack, but neither the acting nor the writing delivers the minor narrative pleasures that those series serves up intermittently. Instead, Wisdom of the Crowd acts as an egregious, even embarrassing gesture toward understanding the age of social media, a husk of modern tropes made with minimal passion and even less care.
Rating: No – Not even once
Wisdom of the Crowd airs on Sundays at 8:30 p.m. EST on CBS starting October 1st.