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Let’s Hope ‘Pure Genius’ Technology Becomes a Reality
October 27, 2016  | By David Hinckley

CBS’s Pure Genius is a medium-energy medical drama with a novel twist.

It also has a more subtle level that’s potentially a little disturbing.

The premise of Pure Genius, which premieres Thursday at 10 p.m. ET, is that tech zillionaire James Bell (Augustus Prew, top) has funded a futuristic medical research facility. He’s staffing it with a hand-picked team of visionary doctors who get the funding and the freedom to cut traditional red tape and develop high-tech, cutting-edge solutions to diseases and conditions that have stumped the medical establishment for centuries.

His new star recruit is Dr. Walter Wallace (Dermot Mulroney, top with Prew), joining a team that includes Dr. Talaikha Channarayapatra (Reshma Shetty). Praise the Lord for nicknames.  

Like most CBS dramas, Pure Genius will have its characters tackle and often resolve a case or a couple of cases each week. A woman in a puzzling coma. A pregnant woman with cancer who is refusing treatment if it might harm her baby.

It’s easy enough to dramatize heartbreaking medical dilemmas for which most doctors have no solutions, and thus equally heartwarming to see mavericks who just might find a way.

There are faint echoes of House here, without the misanthropy that House himself brought to the table.

More to the point, almost everyone in real life knows someone who faced a situation where medical science could identify a problem and not solve it.

Cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s – the terrible list goes on. We’re working on it, we’re researching it, we’re spending millions to figure out what causes it and how to fight it.

That’s just little consolation to the people who suffer from it now.

Pure Genius feeds the hope, or belief, or suspicion that we really could defeat some of these awful diseases if we could just cut through protocol and turn our best minds loose to do whatever it takes.

That’s a good dramatic premise. It may not be a great service to people who will watch and, even though they know it’s a TV show, grab onto it as confirmation that someone – the government, hospitals, corporations, whoever – is preventing medical science from making the rapid advances it could.

You don’t want doctors having to explain why they can’t fix something the way it was fixed on TV.  

That said, Pure Genius does provide a layman’s course in areas where medical research could be heading for breakthroughs, and it accurately reflects the way in which private entrepreneurs and entities like government and academic researchers are each valuable in the pursuit of common goals.

So Pure Genius at times feels intriguing, though it’s diluted by the low spark of the lead characters.

Prew's Bell has the familiar characteristics of a boy-wonder tech phenom. He’s arrogant. His people skills are shaky. He often seems to dismiss people who have made less money than he has.

Mulroney is adequate as Wallace but, at least in the early episodes, he doesn’t deliver the overt passion we expect from the character. He’s more a brilliant technician.

Some of the spark may come from other characters, like Shetty’s, but we need more from the top. Perhaps a surprise involving Prew at the end of the first episode will lead us there.

Meanwhile, we can all join in hoping that the high-tech miracles we see on Pure Genius will someday soon be standard medical procedure.

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