Monday, July 09, 2012


TNT's new procedural Perception belongs to the subgenre we might call "douchebag solves crimes," along with shows like Monk, Psych and The Mentalist. The main character is an insufferable, arrogant asshole who nearly single-handedly solves complex cases, no thanks to the incompetent rule-followers around him. His insensitivity and rudeness are excused not only by his crime-solving genius, but often also by some tragic personal flaw (mental disorder, murdered family member, etc.). It's an archetype going back to Sherlock Holmes, and it's not an inherently bad set-up for storytelling, although it's become awfully prevalent in TV crime procedurals.

The problem with this device in Perception is that it's executed so poorly, and the main character is so grating that he engenders no sympathy whatsoever. Eric McCormack plays neuroscience professor Daniel Pierce with a perpetual smirk and condescending air, and even his moments of vulnerability and compassion come off as arrogant. Not only is Daniel a brilliant academic/detective, but he also suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, which in the show's skewed world just makes him better at solving crimes (and more of an inconsiderate jerk). Sure, he hallucinates people who aren't there, but those people help him solve crimes!

The first episode features a schizophrenia-related twist that's probably meant to be mind-blowing but is just lazy and obvious, and the way that Daniel's delusions contribute to his crime-solving stretches believability the first time, let alone the third or fourth. The cases themselves are nothing special, and the show has to bend over backward to include some sort of neuroscience-related element in each one. As the FBI agent partnered with Daniel (and one of his former students), Rachael Leigh Cook is completely miscast; she comes off like a teenage girl playing dress-up. The whole enterprise is slapdash and annoying, scraping the bottom of the barrel of mental disorders and specialized expertise that could theoretically aid in solving crimes. If TV has to be filled with endless recycled crime procedurals, couldn't we at least lose the desperate gimmickry?

Premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on TNT.

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