Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Perception, My Take


Perception 7-2-13

  One of the many things taking up space on my DVR at the moment is the most recent installment of Perception.  Actually, now that I think about it, I think it airs on Tuesday, so I’m assuming there are actually two installments there now.  And, my guess is, there will be several more before I find time to actually watch them.  (Thank goodness there aren’t that many first-run programs on during summer session, or my DVR queue would be overflowing!)

But, the point is, I’ve got some episodes waiting for me, and I’m looking forward to finding time to see what’s going on.  Perception is a relatively new show to the TNT lineup.  It premiered last year, and has just returned for its second season.  Of course, that’s a cable season we’re talking about, so I’m pretty sure they only had ten or eleven shows last year, and I think they’re scheduled for 12 or 14 this summer, but I hope it won’t be a whole year later that it returns again.  But, I’m ahead of myself. (Warning: some spoilers ahead.)

Perception stars Eric McCormack as Daniel Pierce, who IMDB describes as an “eccentric neuroscientist”, which is certainly true, but it leaves out the part about him being a schizophrenic.  So he’s not just quirky, but he has an actual diagnosis, too.  Between the disease, his nerdiness, and the fact that he doesn’t tolerate fools gladly, it makes for an interesting character.  Pierce is a college professor who also consults with the FBI from time to time (you know, every week) and helps them solve all their really tough cases.  For those of you who only know McCormack from his old Will and Grace days, you might be surprised to find a slightly darker character, but I think he does a good job of it.   Pierce surely isn’t the only character on TV these days with a mental illness (though no others are springing rapidly to mind), but he’s doing a good job showing how that illness doesn’t have to be all that there is to a person.

Pierce assists the FBI through his relationship with Agent Kate Moreti, played by Rachel Leigh Cook.  She used to be his student way back in the day, and she’s the one who sort of recruited him to become a consultant for the Feds.  She knew about his eccentricities, and his genius, but she’s only recently learned about the depths of his illness and the problems it can create (which served as a big part of the season one finale, and I’m really looking forward to the time I can queue up the new episodes and see how that’s all playing out).  And, really, I’m hoping these season two episodes make me a bit more of a Moreti fan, because I have to say that so far, I’m not overly impressed.  Of course, a big problem with all these “consultant” type shows is that it’s the consultant who’s the star, therefore the one always having the epiphanies and solving the cases—it makes the professional crime-solvers seem like a bunch of boobs sometimes.  And that’s kind of where I’ve been with Moreti.  Not that she really seems like a boob, but she doesn’t come off as particularly necessary, and that’s always bad.  The consultants are really only ever truly successful when they’ve got someone to consult for, so it really needs to be a partnership.  I’m not feeling that just yet with Daniel and Kate.

One of the interesting partnerships on the show is that of Daniel and his graduate assistant, Lewicki.  More than just grading papers and filling in for a lecture when Pierce has better things to do (though there’s plenty of that), Lewicki is really sort of Pierce’s keeper.  He lives with the professor, knows about and understands his illness, and tries to help him manage it, even to the point of telling him when he’s having hallucinations.  Lewicki is portrayed by Arjay Smith, and he’s one of my favorite characters.

Rounding out the primary cast, we’ve got Kelly Rowan playing Natalie Vincent, and LeVar Burton as Paul Haley.  Natalie is a . . . confidante to Dr. Pierce.  It’s great to see Daniel with someone who makes him feel balanced and comfortable, even if it does turn out that she’s a recurring hallucination.  And Haley is Daniel’s boss at the university.  He likes Dr. Pierce, and thinks it’s great that he can help out with the criminal stuff, but he also wants the guy to be a regular faculty member sometimes, meaning stick to a class schedule and attend department fundraisers sometimes. He understands Daniel’s limitations, but he still tries to push beyond them sometimes.  Really, I think that’s what’s great about most of the characters: they don’t want to let Pierce be defined by his illness, even though it might be a big part of why he is who he is.  And, back to Moreti, I think maybe that’s part of why I don’t think her character works as well just yet, because she’s not had the full insight into Pierce’s circumstances, and has seemed more interested in using him for what he can do for her.  (Which sounds much more cold-hearted than I think the character really is, but she’s just not fleshed out well yet, I think.)

Anyway, all together, I think Perception makes for a pretty enjoyable hour of television.  It’s a nice blend of characters and performers (and even a Trek alum!) for a decent police procedural.  There’s nothing ground-breaking here, but McCormack really is sort of mesmerizing in this role, shifting between his perfectly functional professorial persona to a man overcome by his inner demons, with lots of variations in between.  I’m looking forward to seeing how he develops as the show goes along.