TNT's Perception Debuts Daring New Concept: Schizophrenic Hero
Television Review: Perception, Premiere
by R.J. Carter
Published: July 4, 2012
I have a new favorite show, and it hasn't even aired yet.
Dr. Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack) is a college professor, specializing in the brain. Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook) is an FBI agent and former student who brings him in to consult on special cases.
Sounds like every other "specific science tie-in" police procedural, right? I mean, Bones works on bones and bone structure. Numb3rs solved crimes using math. CSI has juries expecting DNA results to end cases in sixty minutes or less. So what's so different from those shows and this one, other than the fact that the brilliant consultant specializes in a different branch of science?
Well, this hero is flawed. No, he's beyond flawed: he's fractured. He's a paranoid schizophrenic -- and that's not a generalization. He's a voices-hearing, hallucination-seeing paranoid schizophrenic. He knows it, and he tries to hide that fact from Moretti, who knows he's "eccentric" because of his certain behaviors -- like needing to be constantly fed puzzles by his live-in assistant, Max Lewicki (Arjay Smith), to keep his mind focused on something other than himself.
Are you interested yet?
Pierce's mind, when focused, is brilliant. He's a puzzle-breaker, a code-cracker, a House MD-like diagnostician (so long as it's a neurological condition) who just happens to think that the government is out to spy on everybody and that corporate fatcats are out to squash the middle class. He won't use an iPod, relying on cassette tape versions of music that he plays (loudly) through the headphones of his Sony Walkman.
Moretti isn't without flaws of her own, having a propensity for expanding the parameters of her cases beyond the scope approved by her supervisors. She's also a bit of a physical daredevil, which leaves Pierce aghast. But the puzzles she brings Pierce are far more satisfying to him than the New York Times crosswords Lewicki keeps him supplied with -- which Pierce performs in ink. It's a symbiotic relationship: she keeps him distracted, he keeps her following her adrenalin addiction. Think "A Beautiful Mind" meets The Closer.
The real question is, can the writers keep up the puzzle-based or neurological-based cases coming? I mean, I love a good Batman comic, but if he's up against the Riddler in every single issue, it runs a good risk of becoming trite. Granted, Pierce goes up against more than one "riddler" in the first four episodes of the series I've watched thus far, but it's going to be a challenge. This reviewer hopes the producers -- Ken Biller and Mike Sussman, both of whom have Star Trek connections in their portfolio -- have already planned this out for a lengthy, lengthy future.
Perception debuts Monday, July 9, at 10/9c on TNT.