‘Limitless,’ ‘Last Man on Earth’ pose intriguing questions

There have been lots of movies about people who suddenly become smarter, or who use the part of their brain that normally goes “unused”: John Travolta’s character in “Phenomenon,” Scarlett Johansson as “Lucy,” and Bradley Cooper in “Limitless.”

These movies operate from the premise that humans use only 10% of our brains, and what would happen if we used all of it? This is actually a myth. But the idea that we could take a pill that would give us a photographic memory, and the ability to learn and analyze at a superhuman rate is intriguing, and inspiring.

I love these movies, and the idea that we are all capable of so much more – that we all have untapped potential.

We may not be wasting our brain power, but many of us do waste time. Maybe I could learn how to play the cello or speak Chinese, if I spent less time watching movies and TV. But that’s not going to happen. So let’s talk about the show:

“Limitless,” the TV spinoff of the film, passes the higher intellect torch to Brian Finch (Jake McDorman), who gets a job working for the FBI after taking the brain-enhancing drug NZT.

It’s a great hook, but I’m not sure it will be enough to hold onto viewers. It’s slipping rather quickly into the formulaic crime show category, which is what happened to the “Minority Report” spinoff. We want sci fi, not another “CSI.” Talk about untapped potential.

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“I swim in it, I drink out of it. There’s really no wrong way to use a margarita pool.”

The Last Man on Earth

“The Last Man on Earth” poses a different what-if scenario: What would you do if the world’s population succumbed to a massive epidemic and you were the last person left?

If you were Phil Miller (played by Will Forte) you would steal art and artifacts from museums and use them to decorate your new mansion. You would have an inflatable pool filled with tequila and margarita mix.

And you would become so lonely for company you would make friends with volleyballs à la “Cast Away” and get so desperate for love that you end up hitting on a mannequin.

This very funny post-apocalyptic comedy hits just the right notes of loneliness and hilarity to keep me coming back for more, even if the title no longer rings true (it turns out he’s not really the last man).

Now in its second season, I was a bit skeptical of its ability to maintain its momentum. It seems like the premise could run out of steam at any moment, but “Last Man” always has another trick up its sleeve.

In one moment it’s a comedy with heart, and in the next it’s completely heartless. It’s stupid and brilliant at the same time. It turns out it’s not about the end of the world at all, but about the human condition and our vulnerability.

(Photos: Limitless, CBS; and The Last Man on Earth, FOX)

Will Tatiana Maslany win Emmy for ‘Orphan Black’?

If you are a fan of “Orphan Black,” you may have thought, “Wow, that actress really deserves an Emmy.” 
Well, Tatiana Maslany has finally been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. 
Maslany plays Sarah, a British punk rock mom who discovers she’s a clone – one of many, and she plays all of them. You know she’s doing an amazing job when you forget they are all the same person in real life. It’s an addictive series –  gritty and suspenseful, but with plenty of comic relief. I don’t want to give anything away, but I highly recommend putting it on your short list for what to binge watch next.
Another one of my favorite shows, Game of Thrones, was nominated for 24 awards this year. Among the nominations are Outstanding Drama Series, a Best Supporting Actor nod for the incomparable Peter Dinklage, who won an Emmy for his role as Tyrion Lannister in 2011, and nods for Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey, and Diana Rigg.
Game of Thrones has also been nominated for cinematography, production design, writing (D.B. Weiss and David Benioff) and direction (David Nutter) awards.
The HBO series swept the Creative Arts Emmys on Saturday. Will they sweep the Primetime Emmys? Tune in to the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards on FOX, Sunday, Sept. 20, to find out.
 
New TV series
 
Here are a few of the new shows I will be checking out this fall. I use the term “new” loosely, as all of the following are adaptations of other TV shows and movies – but they are great stories, so let’s hope the TV shows will be too.
  
Monday, Sept. 21
“Minority Report” (FOX) is a sequel adaptation of the 1956 Philip K. Dick story and the 2002 film (Steven Spielberg). In the movie, Tom Cruise starred as the Chief of PreCrime, a police force that aimed to stop crimes before they were committed, through the use of “precogs,” mutant siblings who can see the future.  The TV series, set 11 years after the events in the movie, focuses on a precog named Dash, played by Stark Sands.  
 
Tuesday, Sept. 22

“Limitless” (CBS) is a sequel based on the 2011 film of the same name. The story revolves around a drug called NZT-48 which increases the user’s IQ and gives him a photographic memory. The main character in the series is Brian Finch, played by Jake McDorman. Bradley Cooper, who starred in the movie, will have a recurring role.  

Thursday, Sept. 24
“Heroes Reborn” (NBC), a 13-episode miniseries, is a continuation of the show “Heroes” (2006-2010). Some of the original actors will reprise their roles, including Jack Coleman as Noah Bennet, Masi Oka as Hiro Nakamura, Jimmy Jean-Louis as The Haitian, Greg Grunberg as Matt Parkman, Noah Gray-Cabey as Micah Sanders, and Sendhil Ramamurthy as Mohinder Suresh. 
 
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Saturday, Sept. 26
“Guardians of the Galaxy” (Disney XD) is an animated spinoff of the comic book and film of the same name. Stephen Wacker, Marvel’s vice president for current animation, has said the series would strive to replicate the film’s offbeat sense of humor, and would pick up where the movie left off.
(Photos: BBC America; Disney XD)