Alibi V.26 No.43 • Oct 26-Nov 1, 2017 

Idiot Box

App for Destruction

“Wisdom of the Crowd” on CBS

Before it even aired amid CBS’ well-established slate of lowest-common-denominator sitcoms and grandma-friendly crime procedurals, trailers for “Wisdom of the Crowd” put it in the running for the dumbest show of the fall. Since then, airings of the actual show have soundly confirmed the suspicion.

For years “Idiot Box” has groused about the dogged unwillingness of Hollywood writers to understand how crimes are solved in the real world. Unable to do the legwork (so to speak), TV writers simply fall back on magical computers or psychic detectives or time travelers or any fantastical method they can imagine to drag criminals to justice in 60 minutes or less. “Wisdom of the Crowd” latches onto this TV trope with the cold, dead fingers of an NRA president on a Winchester.

“Wisdom of the Crowd” more or less photocopies its premise from the late, unlamented shows “APB” (about a Silicon Valley genius who spends billions to give impossibly high-tech equipment to a Chicago Police precinct after his friend is murdered) and “Pure Genius” (about a Silicon Valley genius who spends billions to give impossibly high-tech equipment to a San Francisco hospital after he’s diagnosed with an incurable disease). In “Wisdom of the Crowd,” our Silicon Valley genius is Jeffrey Tanner (Jeremy Piven, trying to do some kind of soulful, self-righteous Ari Gold thing—which is a terrible idea). After his daughter is murdered, he comes up with the brilliant idea of “crowdsourcing” crime solving. He creates a cell phone app called SOPHE that people can download and use to inundate police with tips, criminal sightings, possible clues, dick pics, video of actual crimes—all sorts of allegedly helpful stuff.

The scary part is that the show, and its creators, remain blissfully oblivious that the concept amounts to nothing more than vigilante justice. I don’t rely on the internet to provide intelligent, non-racist commentary on a YouTube kitten video. I sure as hell wouldn’t expect it to provide non-biased crime solving. What’s to stop a stupid college student from sending in a photo of his ex-girlfriend and labeling her a terrorist? Let’s be honest here, “Wisdom of the Crowd”: America used to have a very effective crowdsourced justice system—it was called lynch mobs.

Of course, if the show had some sort of edgy narrative appeal, we might be able to ignore its morally shaky setup. Sadly, though, “Wisdom of the Crowd” amounts to little more than standard-issue, paint-by-numbers, ripped-from-the-headlines CBS crime solving. One recent episode, for example, featured the murder of a white nationalist with a more-than-passing resemblance to headline hog Richard Spencer. There’s a fine line between topical and lazy, people.

To top it all off, CBS already did the computer crime solving thing with “Person of Interest”—but that show worked because it leaned away from cliché, crime-of-the-week stories to explore the dark, sci-fi implications of artificial intelligence. “Wisdom of the Crowd” harbors no such ambitions. Blissfully lacking in self-awareness, it just wants to turn police work into a giant game of Pokémon GO.

“Wisdom of the Crowd” airs Sundays at 7pm on KRQE-13