The winter finale for CBS’s freshman series “Limitless” aired on Tuesday and now that 11 episodes have graced the small-screen, it’s pretty safe to point out that the series is pretty much a watered-down version of “Chuck”.
The NBC series starring Zachary Levi ended its five season run in 2012 and since then, there’s been a hole on television entertainment.
While many pointed to CBS’s “Limitless” as another Sherlock Holmes-style program — joining the likes of “Sherlock” and “Elementary” in the fray — there’s a better comparison to take into consideration and it’s to the wonderful little series mentioned above.
Sure, there are many geeky television programs available for viewing nowadays but not many that present a geeky antihero in a fun crime-fighting role. But wait, here is one! All that being said, here are the five ways “Limitless” is really “Chuck”-lite.
A Lovable Slacker Hero
One thing Brian Finch (Jake McDorman) and Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) have in common, upon first glance, is their overt slacker nature. When is premiered in 2007 on NBC, audiences were introduced to “Chuck,” who was simply an unmotivated comic book geek that made a living as the head of the Buy More’s “Nerd Herd.” He and his best friend Morgan Grimes (Joshua Gomez) would easily prefer to hang out and watch “Tron” or play video games than do much of anything to save the world.
Not as nerdy is Brian Finch, a more accessible type of slacker who is introduced at the beginning of “Limitless” as an unmotivated musician who consistently relies on his family for financial support. Sure, it’s not as fun of a premise as “Chuck” but this is CBS and risks taken at this network don’t happen as often. But, they do happen.
NZT is the new Intersect
One fateful day, Finch happens upon an old friend who slips him a pill known commonly as “NZT.” It’s this little thing that opens up a world of unlimited possibilities as our hero suddenly can access every part of his brain. Learning skills he never dreamed he could learn, the abilities he gains makes him almost a super hero … but for a limited time. Let’s not forget those horrible withdrawal symptoms, either.
It may not be the Intersect — the super computer Chuck unknowingly uploads into his brain — but the outcome is similar. Like Bartowsi, Finch is now able to learn skills and solve problems in a manner normal people cannot. Again … almost a super hero.
Those FBI Handlers, Tho
Part of the ongoing story in “Chuck” are Bartowski’s handlers Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) and John Casey (Adam Baldwin). Sarah is CIA and Casey is assigned by the NSA but together they help to keep the asset alive while slowly learning to care for him, developing an odd sort of family.
While there’s more undercover work featured in the NBC series — Sarah pretends to be Chuck’s girlfriend, Casey becomes a Buy More employee — the dynamic isn’t that much different than Brian’s FBI handlers on “Limitless.”
While these agents are definitely more “by the book,” the situations they find themselves in aren’t as quirky as they were on “Chuck” but CBS has delivered its own interesting narrative by giving the audience a peek into Finch’s mind and the dude has some very odd visions.
That Will They, Won’t They
Remember how Sarah pretended to be Chuck’s girlfriend? Well, surprise … they fell in love. That relationship dynamic helped add multiple layers to the story presented in the show’s five seasons. There was uncomfortable comedy, riveting drama, and unfortunate heartbreak … and that’s just referring to this relationship.
“Limitless” is already working on multiple levels as a weekly procedural and the rapport Finch has with Agent Rebecca Harris is leading many to wonder when — not if — they will eventually hook up. Go rewatch that “Ferris Bueller” themed episode and try and disagree!
Pop Culture References
Speaking of “Ferris Bueller,” one thing the CBS series has made a habit of is bringing Finch’s tastes and perspectives to the forefront. The audience consistently gets a good view of his pop culture savvy and this not only appeals to a specific “Big Bang Theory” demographic, it’s reminiscent of “Chuck.”
Just rewatch any number of episodes from the NBC series and you’ll get a peek inside Bartowski’s bedroom which features memorabilia from San Diego Comic-Con and “Tron.” And if that isn’t good enough for you, things get even geekier in the pilot when Bartowski and Grimes share a subtle “Batman” joke as Sarah’s character is first introduced.
“Limitless” will return with new episodes in Spring, 2016 on CBS.