Jake 2.0: Pilot (2003) TV Review

Think of it as “The Six Million Dollar Gen-X’er”. The premise is simple: Jake Foley (Christopher Gorham) works for the National Security Agency as a tech support guy, but he dreams of being a “real” agent and working in the field. Trouble is, Jake is not all that physically gifted or courageous, but all that changes when, during a botched theft in one of the NSA’s super duper secret labs, Jake is doused with nanites. Nanites are microscopic robots that invades Jake’s bloodstream and turns him into Superman. Or, to be more precise, Clark Kent with Superman’s powers (minus the whole flying thing).

Actually, if you’ve seen the cancelled “Now and Again”, the premise of “Jake 2.0” may seem familiar; they’re basically identical, with some minor variations. “Jake 2.0” is more of a traditional episodic TV show, opening with Jake discovering his powers ala a comic book Origins Story. With nanites in his bloodstream, Jake’s senses are heightened and he’s faster and stronger. He has telescopic sight and when he throws a football, a kid goes flying through the air. What makes the pilot episode worthwhile is that Jake is inherently a smart fellow, and thus it doesn’t take him long to figure out what’s happened to him or how to use his powers.

With Jake’s newfound abilities comes new opportunities. Realizing that they have a valuable asset on their hands, the NSA makes Jake a field agent under the close supervision of NSA director Louise Beckett (Judith Scott) and the care of doctor Diane Hughes (Keegan Connor Tracy). (Actually, this whole angle about creating a new unit around Jake’s powers takes place in the last 5 minutes of the pilot, but it’s the obvious set up so it shouldn’t be considered a spoiler.) Jake’s love interest is Sarah Heywood (Marina Black), some sort of politician’s assistant who lost her father in the first Gulf war. Talk of Sarah’s missing father is obviously a set up for future episodes involving the search for the missing Heywood.

The second half of the 1-hour pilot features Jake being pursued by an IRA terrorist bent on acquiring the nanites. Completely unexplained is how the terrorist immediately knows that Jake has the nanites, when the super duper NSA, with all their super duper technology and personal interaction with Jake, didn’t even know. Which brings me to this point: shows like “Jake 2.0” will be accused of being contrived for the simple reason that in order to make its episodes work, it must resort to such tactics. For example: you would think that the NSA, one of America’s super duper spy agencies, would have a system in their headquarters whereby someone couldn’t just light a match, put it up to the fire system, and have all the doors automatically open — even the doors holding super duper criminals in super duper cells.

Although the pilot itself is not that inspiring or exciting, Christopher Gorham does a good job as Jake, and scenes where he’s discovering his new powers are probably the episode’s best moments. Of course the whole topic of Jake’s powers leaves room for a lot of questions. Among Jake’s powers is the ability to remote-control machines. How this is possible is never explained. Also never explained is how nanites would increase his vision, hearing, and strength. Needless to say, the show really offers very poor explanations; worst, it doesn’t seem to know any of the answers.

Marina Black’s Sarah is the obvious damsel in distress. I can see her getting into trouble about once every 5 episodes, with Jake having to come to the rescue. This is a big problem because Gorham and Black have no chemistry. In fact, Black seems very out of place in the show, much more so than the too-young Keegan Connor Tracy, who plays an NSA’s scientist. Couldn’t they have found someone older to play the scientist, or younger to play the love interest? Philip Anthony Rodriguez, as an NSA agent relegated to desk duty, will play a big role in the future. He’ll probably either become Jake’s supervisor or his partner.

The biggest obstacle that I can foresee for “Jake 2.0” is that it’s a show with unknown actors on a network that caters to late teens and early 20-somethings — two very fickle audiences. The show has similar pedigrees to two recent UPN action-adventure/sci-fi offerings, “Seven Days” and “Special Unit 2”. Neither of those two shows lasted for any length of time, and I’m afraid “Jake 2.0” might be headed toward the same path. There are no “name” actors to bring in young audience, and the premise can only last for so long until it gets old.

Conclusion: the show isn’t hip or “young” enough to draw in the usual UPN audience; if it lasts for a season, it certainly won’t last past two.

CAST: Christopher Gorham …. Jake Foley
Marina Black …. Sarah Heywood
Miranda Frigon …. Agent Allison Carver
Matt Czuchry …. Darin Metcalf
Philip Anthony Rodriguez …. Kyle Duarte
Judith Scott …. Louise Beckett

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