The television landscape is littered with procedural cop shows, so it takes something a little extra to stand out. The series set up in The Irrational 1×01 “Pilot” isn’t groundbreaking in terms of plot. It isn’t terribly noteworthy in the quirkiness of its characters or the cleverness of its crime solving. What it does have to set itself apart from similar shows is star Jesse L. Martin. I’ve loved him as an actor since his Law and Order days, and he was continually one of the best (and most underutilized) parts of The Flash. So giving his new show a chance was a no-brainer for me.
So what is The Irrational about? According to NBC:
The Irrational follows world-renowned professor of behavioral science Alec Mercer (Jesse L. Martin) as he lends his unique expertise on an array of high-stakes cases involving governments, law enforcement and corporations. His insight and unconventional approach to understanding human behavior lead him and the team on a series of intense, unexpected journeys to solve illogical puzzles and perplexing mysteries.
The show is based on best-selling author Dan Ariely’s book, “Predictably Irrational.”NBC
The description might make one think of a cross between something like Criminal Minds and House. With maybe a dash of Monk. Which probably isn’t the worst way to think of the show, really. It’s not quite as dark as Criminal Minds, and the hero isn’t quite as arrogant as Dr. House (Hugh Laurie). Neither is he quite as tortured and quirky as Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub).
But he does still have his secrets. And his demons. In fact, like Monk, some of his demons are on display to the world. For Dr. Mercer, they appear in the form of facial scars, given to him in a bombing he can’t quite remember but took the lives of other members of his team. But who really was behind the bombing? It’s a mystery that will undoubtedly last the course of the season, of not the series as a whole.
A show like The Irrational rests on the strength of its main character. There isn’t anything particularly unique about the premise of the series – or even the character background. And characters are obviously not as fleshed out in series Pilots as they will grow over the course of a season. However, the series is lucky to have an actor of Martin’s calibre at the helm.
More than anything, Martin manages to show the audience the potential of the character in the series Pilot. Of course, his character has the ubiquitous failed relationship and personal demons. And he has (as so many of these types of characters seem to) a type of arrogance that comes across as disregard for the safety of others.
But there’s also something endearing about his character, whether he’s displaying inappropriate glee that his understanding of human behavior proved correct or reluctantly showing raw vulnerability while finally admitting to the truth behind his scars. And while the rest of the cast wasn’t quite as memorable in the Pilot episode, the dynamic between Mercer and his ex was refreshing in its lack of acrimony. Things may not have worked out between the two in the past, but that door doesn’t seem entirely closed.
Worth The Watch?
So does The Irrational 1×01 “Pilot” set up a series that’s worth watching? Honestly, if you’re looking for a show completely unlike anything that you’ve seen before, probably not. But if you like procedural dramas that are more about the characters than the mystery, it might be worth giving The Irrational a shot. I know the kind of performance Martin is capable of giving, and that’s enough to make me check out the first few episodes, at least.
The Irrational airs Mondays on NBC.