Third-episode verdict: Wisdom of the Crowd (US: CBS)

Wisdom of the Crowd
Wisdom of the Crowd stars Jeremy Piven (far right) as Jeffrey Tanner, a visionary tech innovator who creates a cutting-edge crowdsourcing app to solve his daughter's murder, and revolutionize crime solving in the process. Working with him is Sara Morton (Natalia Tena), a brilliant engineer whose relationship with Tanner goes beyond professional; Josh Novak (Blake Lee, second from left), a talented, nerdy-cool head programmer; and Tariq Bakari (Jake Matthews, far left), a tech genius and expert hacker with issues adhering to the rules. Photo: Diyah Pera/CBS ©2017 CBS Broadcasting

In the US: Sundays, 8/7c, CBS

First of, let’s ignore the Barrometer for a moment and put Wisdom of the Crowd to the rarely deployed but equally important test used only with crime procedurals – the TMINEMIL test. Yep, I got my mother-in-law to watch the show, as being a fervent lover of the genre, she is precisely its target audience. She loves it, so Wisdom of the Crowd clearly hits the right notes with the right people.

But how about you? Assuming you’re not one of ‘the right people’, is there much merit to Wisdom of the Crowd? The show’s format is that social media tech entrepreneur Jeremy Piven wants to find out who really killed his daughter, so decides to use a crowd-sourcing platform to data mine all the evidence, discover clues and connections the police missed, and get input from experts and witnesses the police never knew about. However, his platform turns out to be very good at unearthing crimes that the police have missed or don’t know how to solve and before you know it, Piven’s helping detective Richard T Jones with his enquiries and vice versa.

Episode one showed us there’s more to the show than the simple bog standard CBS procedural. Sure, it has everyone standing around in front of their desks, instead of sitting at them, staring at monitors (good job Piven’s helper monkeys are all young); occasionally the show will Numb3rs up and flash some science oddly (“We can use Bayes Theorem to make connections!”), too. But the police do the things they’re good at, the techies do the things they’re good at, and that’s it – no CSIs conducting interviews here.

Wisdom of the Crowd usually also has a fair idea of science and computing’s limitations: “Can’t you get your computer to analyse the images?” “Actually, computers are quite poor at visual recognition and it’s better to get people to do it.” It knows that a lot of the time, people talk nonsense and know nothing and that you have to mine through the chaff to get to the real information or people who might know what they’re talking about, with episode two giving us ‘crowd winnowing’ with a missing boy to come up with guesses from trackers, rangers and the like for where he might be.

The wisdom of viewing?

But that’s basically the show’s gimmick. It’s a superior gimmick and the cases are more varied and smarter than the usual procedural inanity. But as with all procedurals, that’s neither here nor there. Whether you watch is down to the characters and maybe a faint glimmer of a series plot.

In terms of story arc, episode two steered a little away from the hunt for the killer of Piven’s daughter, but still touched base with it, and episode three carried on with it strongly, so it’s a lot more dedicated to its story arc than The Mentalist was, for sure. There’s also an ongoing question about how Piven can afford all of this, given the staff and resources he’s using, with the suggestion he might need some cash or even have to sell up. Which is new for this kind of show, which always posits some unlimited bucket of cash for its advanced agencies.

As for the characters, you’ve got flashy but driven Piven and that’s about it. The only characters with any real animus are Piven’s ex-wife (Monica Potter) and Jones, but ultimately they’re just there for a bit of variety, rather than because anyone actually cares to give them backgrounds and stories of their own. Everyone else is a delivery vector for dialogue and plot, rather than someone you’d necessarily want to spend time with or at least get to know.

So is that enough to make me want to keep watching? No. Almost, but not quite, I don’t think, although it’s borderline. All the same, it might be for you. Certainly, compared to the rest of the crime procedurals on the market, particularly those from the CBS, this is the only one I could contemplate watching regularly. It’s also already one of my mother-in-law’s favourites. Give it a whirl if you like procedurals or want to try one of the better ones. Otherwise, I’d say that there’s probably something else more to your taste that you could watch instead.

Barrometer rating: 3

The Barrometer of the Wisdom of The Crowd


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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