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Limitless Ferris Bueller episode: EP Craig Sweeny on '80s homage

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David M. Russell/CBS

Limitless the TV series draws a fair amount of inspiration from the 2011 Bradley Cooper movie of the same name, and although the show stands on its own and follows an entirely separate story line, the two share a world (and the occasional Cooper cameo). But in Tuesday’s episode, Limitless is drawing on an entirely different movie for inspiration.

Bueller? Bueller?

The episode, titled “Brian Finch’s Black Op,” pays homage to the 1986 John Hughes classic, as Brian (Jake McDorman) attempts to play hooky from the FBI and take a day off.

“It’s one of those movies — Sixteen Candles probably being the other one — that I know inside and out,” Limitless EP Craig Sweeny says. “It’s not healthy to know as much about either of those movies as I know.”

Although Ferris Bueller’s Day Off wasn’t consciously used as a reference point for the first few episodes, Sweeny realized recently that much of the show’s style — like onscreen arrows and diagrams — is derived from one of his favorite films. “It’s realizing you have this powerful influence that you weren’t cognizant of before,” he says. “I went back and I rewatched the movie, and I was like, ‘God, this movie was a huge influence on the show.’ And because our show is playful, from that moment on, I knew that I eventually wanted to find a way to work an homage to the movie into the show.”

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While the episode is filled with easter eggs, from warm gummy bears on a school bus to Jennifer Carpenter’s white fringe jacket, the clearest homage comes in the episode’s opening, which recreates Matthew Broderick’s iconic monologue. “The opening is amazingly long,” Sweeny says. “Matthew Broderick is an incredible actor. He carries like seven minutes of just talking to the screen. I knew we couldn’t do that much in a 43-minute TV show, so it was really about finding those iconic moments so that people would go, ‘Oh. Oh my God, this is what they’re doing?’ ”

“There’s like eight iconic moments in that iconic sequence,” he adds. “And so we just tried to capture as many as we could.”

And the Bueller references help to lighten up the episode’s main plotline: Although he calls in “sick” and attempts to take a day off, Brian soon gets sucked into a top-secret CIA black op, which finds him hunting for a terrorist in the Pennsylvania wilderness. “I squatted in the mud a lot in the rain in the woods for your entertainment,” Sweeny says.

All in all, it does get you wondering what Ferris Bueller would’ve been able to do on NZT. “You almost want someone to go back and remake Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with Jake McDorman,” Sweeny says, laughing. “Not really. I mean, that would be a travesty. But if anybody were to do it, I would say Jake.”