Last weekend, 31 million people watched a football game between Seattle and Carolina; only six shows that week managed to get even half that many.
And now an even bigger audience is expected for the games Sunday (Jan. 18). That means every show wants to be in the Sunday spot after the game. The winner is "Scorpion," which is on a first-season high. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
LOS ANGELES -- For
football players, the ultimate goal may be the Super Bowl; for mere
actors, it's to have the spot after the Super Bowl.
But that spot only
goes to one show a year; this time (Feb. 1 on NBC), it wil be “The
Blacklist.” Before that, the second-best spot – after Sunday's
AFC championship game – goes to “Scorpion.”
And yes, that's part
of a surprising first year for a show that is about computer hackers.
“The show isn't
just about us doing techie stuff,” insisted Eddie Kaye Thomas, one
of the co-stars. “It's a show about a bunch of people who happen to
be really smart.”
For CBS. “Scorpion”
is sort of the drama version of “The Big Bang Theory.” Again,
there are four people (played by Elyes Gabel, Ari Stidham, Jadyn Wong
and Thomas), strong on tech skills and weak on people skills. Again,
a beautiful waitress (Katharine McPhee) nudges them through life.
Paige (McPhee) also has a genius son ... And the FBI keeps asking
them to save the world ... And often, the computer-hacking skills
aren't what matters.
“In the writers'
room, we use the shorthand – 'we'll do a little click-and-clack,'”
producer Nick Santora said of the hacking. “But the really smart,
geniusy stuff is what they do when the're on the run.”
Audiences approve –
last week, “Scorpion” was No. 9 in the Nielsen ratings – and
Thomas is relieved. “I've done enough failed shows,” he said. “It
is so exciting to be on a good one.”
The show has worked
by including large dabs of warmth and emotion. Typical of that was
the episode that was originally handed the post-football spot: Vital
information is locked inside the mind of a memory-impaired former
Secret Service agent. “There's big feeling to it,” said producer
Nicholas Wootten. “They're real people who do big things.”
Except CBS then
decided to flip the episodes. That one was moved to Monday; Sunday's
post-football slot goes to one that includes Paige teaching Walter
(Gabel) how to flirt.
growth has been key to the show. “We see Pinocchio turn into a real
boy over the season,” Santora said. “The audience is going to
love it; he's going to hate it.”
At times, these
geniuses become action heroes ... albeit reluctantly. “It's hard to
do action when you're a bigger dude,” said Stidham, who plays
Sylvester. “I'm not a runner, sprinter, jumper, parkour guy.”
He was a
serious-theater kid, in a junior Shakespeare troupe from ages 11 to
14. He was also big; at 15, he went to a “fat camp” ... at 17,
he was one of the stars of “Huge,” a praised series set in a fat
camp. And now, at 22, he's on a mainstream hit.
There, Stidham is
typical of a team in which people elude easy stereotypes. He may seem
vaguely ethnic, which he is; his dad is Moroccan. He may look like a
tech whiz, which he isn't; there's “a lot of money that CBS lost
because of (my) actual technological glitch.” he said.
And he sort of looks
like a football lineman, which he's not. On Sunday, however, his show
will be seen by some spillover football fans .
-- “Scorpion,” 9
p.m. Mondays, CBS
-- Also after the
AFC championship game (10 p.m. ET or so) Sunday