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Michael Emerson (right) and Jim Caviezel in a scene from the pilot episode of "Person of Interest." (Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS)
Michael Emerson (right) and Jim Caviezel in a scene from the pilot episode of "Person of Interest." (Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS)

John Doyle: Television

Ten interesting things about Person of Interest Add to ...

On Wednesday, in my mail at home, I got a promotional postcard for Pan Am, the ABC drama that starts on Sunday (on CTV in Canada).

The day before, in my mail at work, I got a promotional package for Pan Am – one of those little bags of things you need on a long plane journey. Toothpaste, Tylenol and tissues, kinda thing. Plus a boarding card with my name on it for a Pan Am flight from New York to Paris. Apparently I’m flying out on Sunday, and I’m in Seat 3A. Yeah, yeah, I get it. Pan Am is about plane travel!

Previous columns by John Doyle

The efforts to draw your attention and mine to new TV shows gets a bit wacky at this time of the year. We’re bombarded with ads and, probably, our online movements are being monitored for interest in plane travel so that we can see yet another promo for Pan Am popping up on the computer screen. Possibly, Google’s Gmail is now equipped to tell ABC and CTV that we mentioned “flying” in an e-mail and need to know about Pan Am, pronto.

The theme of pervasive monitoring takes us to Person of Interest (CBS, CITY-TV, 9 p.m.), which starts on Thursday night. That’s pretty much what it’s all about – a billionaire knows everything about everybody’s movement in New York and wants to use the info to stop crimes before they happen. As billionaires are wont to do.

But why should you be interested in the thing? Let’s try to summarize with 10 reasons.

1. CBS says the show is its “highest-testing drama pilot in 15 years.” That’s nice, but unverifiable. A better signal that CBS is high on the show is that it airs at 9 p.m. on Thursdays, bumping CSI out of that cushy time slot.

2. Almost every critic points out that Person of Interest taps a cultural nerve about an increasing lack of privacy and paranoia about governments knowing more than they need to know. This is true and a good reason to watch the show at least once. The eerie sense of always being on-camera and all online activity being visible to corporate or government parties is well done.

3. The dialogue. It’s delish, all tough-guy one-liners and spat-out threats. Early on, when former-CIA agent and stealth-killer John Reese (Jim Caviezel) is poked out of hiding, a cop actually says, “What have we got here, the angel of death?” A short while later, you want to tell that cop, “Dude, that is so true.”

4. The show stars cool people from other cool shows and movies. True. The mysterious billionaire is played by Michael Emerson, who was Ben Linus on Lost. And Jim Caviezel, who plays the billionaire’s muscle, portrayed Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ. You got the mysterious guy from Lost and a former Jesus Christ. That, my friends, is a more formidable draw than any number of fake Pan Am flight attendants.

5. There’s a Batman connection. Again, true. Person of Interest was written and created by Jonathan Nolan, one of the writers of The Dark Knight. And he’s the brother of Dark Night director Christopher Nolan. Totally cool. And that’s not all: The executive producer is J.J. Abrams, who created Lost and Alias. Mind you, if you express your delight in these connections aloud, somebody will think you’re just like Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. Not cool.

6. There are car chases and stuff blows up. Indeedy. If that’s your bag, you’re in for a treat.

7. There is usually a damsel in distress. Yep. Even with all the high-tech sci-fi surveillance stuff, you need an old-fashioned storyline. Comely ladies need to be saved from nogoodniks.

8. The dialogue gets even better. Not too far into the pilot, Reese actually says, “We better get to this kid before somebody else does!” And after he takes some guns from nogoodniks, he says, “Have a nice day!” Later, he tells a cab driver, “Step on it!”

9. You will never think of your cellphone in the same way again. Honestly, the amount of info that our hero garners from other people’s phones is frightening.

10. Guys, your alternative viewing tonight is Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, CTV, 9 p.m.) and In Search of the G Spot (CBC, 9 p.m. on Doc Zone), “an investigation into the heart of the fascinating world of scientific sexology, a close-up of the ‘G’ zone.” I mean, who wants to watch that stuff when there’s guns and stuff blowing up?

ALSO AIRING TONIGHT

Whitney (NBC, 9:30 p.m.) is notable if you missed the CTV airing of the pilot episode earlier in the week. Star Whitney Cummings can’t act much, but she sure can write zippy comedy about a recognizably non-girly woman and play the role herself.

Prime Suspect (NBC, Global , 10 p.m.) also starts and, unfortunately, is irritating from the start. Especially if you have the slightest fondness for the original. Mind you, the producers have expressed irritation about excessive coverage of the fact that the lead character, played by Maria Bello, wears a hat. The hat is the best thing in it!

Check local listings.

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