Monday, July 9, 2012

Review - Perception

TNT's new procedural series Perception stars Eric McMcCormack (Will & Grace, Trust Me) as Chicago neuroscientist and college professor Dr. Daniel Pierce, whose unique ability to see things - behaviors, lies, etc. - is used to help the government solve complex criminal cases.

Here we have yet another male/female crime-solving partnership (think Castle, Bones, Fringe): Daniel is recruited by former student-turned FBI agent Kate Moretti (Rachel Leigh Cook, Psych), knowing that his expertise in forensic neuro-psychiatry (he's written four books on the subject) can prove invaluable in finding the truth and solving the case.

Moretti's story is this:  she's been demoted and transferred back to the Windy City because she "has a tendency to go beyond the scope of [her] assigned investigation."  And perhaps for crazy pursuit tactics like jumping off a second-story fire escape to tackle a fleeing suspect (I know TV is all about suspension of disbelief but come on!). 

Then there's the leeway she affords Daniel:  he's allowed full access to all aspects of a case - viewing of police files, interrogating suspects by himself while Moretti and others watch from the next room - with nary an objection except by the stereotypically gruff, bullish detectives who are unsurprisingly, verbally skeptical of Daniel's abilities.

The reason for the skepticism is not a secret - Dr. Pierce is clearly not playing with a full orchestra (though he does "air conduct" to calm himself in stressful situations) He's paranoid, twitchy, socially awkward and above all, prone to hallucinations.  Think a less overt, more functional John Nash in A Beautiful Mind (I would guess the show's creators are a fan of the film - they make use of a trick used in the movie to show how Daniel pieces together things - scrambled words visually unscramble to reveal a hidden anagram). 

These hallucinations, however, actually help Daniel to piece info together to get to the truth, and herein lies the selling point of the show:  an eccentric, brilliant, functioning nut with a unique gift helps make a difference in the world.  Daniel's insecurities may inhibit him from living a normal life and having normal relationships (as a colleague puts it, he is "petrified of anything remotely resembling an intimate connection with another human being"), but he does have a place and a purpose.  Question is, where will the show take us?  Will it just continue on even keel as in the pilot, or over the course of time will Daniel's mental issues break him down, as Claire Danes' Carrie did in Showtime's brilliant Homeland?  As he states in a lecture to his students, "if what we perceive is often wrong, how can we ever know what's real and what isn't?"  Fortunately, he does have help and support from the college dean, played by Levar Burton (Star Trek: The Next Generation) and a personal assistant named Lewicki (Arjay Smith, Malcolm in the Middle, 24).

Alas, Perception doesn't work for me.  I appreciate the unique twist to the procedural formula it's trying to make, but there's more weakness here than strength.  It's nice to see McCormack in this different type of role, but he doesn't completely break away from his iconic "Will" here as he did in the more recent advertising drama Trust Me.  Daniel's neuroses are very similar to Will's.  And Daniel's rattling off of inane information and random facts isn't done nearly as charmingly as Sasha Alexander does with her character Maura Isles in TNT's highly entertaining Rizzoli & Isles.

The weakest element of Perception is Cook.  I just don't buy her as an FBI agent at all.  I applaud her for getting the chance to try and depart from the roles of the sweet girl-next-door she's so often cast in, but let's face it, that's who she is, what she does best.  She just doesn't have certain stature, grit or attitude I feel is needed, even if the character of Moretti is supposed to be a softer agent.  I still think you need some of that when playing an FBI agent (see Gillian Anderson's Dana Scully in The X Files), and Cook just doesn't. Additionally, her reactions to Daniel, who often says wildly inappropriate things at inopportune moments, miss the mark.  Be it shock, anger, appall - it all looks the same, the same expression for all.  Wide eyes just don't cut it here.  For better examples of strong females in the law enforcement persona, see Castle's Stana Katic and Fringe's Anna Torv.

Bottom Line:  I don't perceive this show as a winner.

Perception airs Monday nights at 10 p.m. on TNT.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite posts of yours are the ones where you let loose with your opinion like this! Good review. And I agree with you on many points. I've never connected with RLC in the first place and I REALLY don't buy her tiny little bird-self as an FBI agent -- and an ITALIAN one at that. Man...that could have and should have been a golden casting opportunity. What a bummer no one took it. Or maybe no one noticed it cuz she wasn't written that well...

    As for EM, I like having him back on my tv so I'll give the show a go for a few mor episodes. But when someone like me is able to predict what's coming when I NEVER usually can (like the "twist" at the end)...well...I don't have the highest hopes.