TCA: “Intelligence” ratings drop “sucked,” executive producer says

For the new spy series Intelligence, so far it’s been a tale of two missions. The CBS drama scored huge ratings for its Jan. 7 debut. Then came Episode 2 on Jan. 13, when it premiered in its regular time slot and suffered a big ratings drop, this time without the benefit of an NCIS lead-in. But the cast and crew projected confidence as they spoke at the show’s TCA panel in Los Angeles on Wednesday that the Josh Holloway-led series would find its groove.

“That sucked,” said executive producer Michael Seitzman. “But it was great having five days watching your network tout you as the No. 1 show on TV. They can’t take that away.”

After finding some receptive laughs for his self-effacing comments, Seitzman said that in truth the production team doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about ratings, and that he realizes his show is up against strong competition in NBC’s The Blacklist and ABC’s Castle. “Those are great shows, and a lot of the people involved with them are our friends. We root for their shows to do well, just like we hope they root for ours. We don’t really think of it as competing anymore than you would think a tennis game with your friends on a Saturday is competing.”

Ratings aside, the producers expressed confidence in the show’s creative direction, having taken the bold step of resolving one of the series’ core mysteries in the second episode. Gabriel’s (Holloway) search for his missing wife reached its end with ——— SPOILER ALERT!!! ——— the character’s death.

Seitzman also shared details about future episodes, talking about the return of certain characters throughout the season, and the casting of Peter Coyote as the father of Lillian (Marg Helgenberger), the leader of the Gabriel’s unit at Cyber Command.

The decision to resolve the plot point of Gabriel’s wife — Gabriel’s decision to allow the microchip to be implanted into his brain, letting him tap into the worldwide communications grid — was predicated on his search for his missing wife — came to Seitzman after watching another spy show, the BBC’s Spooks. That series killed off a major character in its second episode and it got him thinking.

“We didn’t want Gabriel to be spending the whole season hunting his wife, because how would he be able to concentrate on anything else?” Seitzman said. “This frees the character.”

RELATED: Josh Holloway talks about his return to TV in CBS’ Intelligence

It’s difficult to talk about Intelligence without diving into thorny, real-world issues involving surveillance and personal security. But Seitzman said the show hasn’t been designed to be political, so don’t expect too many Edward Snowden references.

Whatever issues it deals with — What constitutes humanity? What are the moral implications of new, invasive technology? — the series will remain at its heart an entertaining adventure, replete with action and, yes, humor. Take the relationship between Gabriel and Riley Neal (Meghan Ory), the Secret Service agent assigned to protect him.

“Having our relationship be funny and fun in moments of crisis is a very human way to deal with stress, and I think it’s a really great part of the show,” Ory said.

Intelligence airs Mondays at 10pm on CBS.

Intelligence Josh Holloway
© 2013 CBS Credit: Michael Desmond