Perception is not just what we experience. It is also what we think we experience and think of the experience. In the pilot episode of TNT's new psychological crime drama "Perception," it is evident that how things are perceived can vary from person to person. And that perceptions are not always based in reality. But real or not, they just might help when solving mysteries.
The promos for TNT network's latest drama series, "Perception," in no way did the show justice. But that may not have been the fault of the editors that put them together. At the same time, they might want to take some notes from Fox's "House M.D." on how to put together a preview of a show about a genius suffering from some sort of impairment. But whereas Dr. Gregory House was a brilliant surgeon in search of the ultimate physiological puzzle, Dr. Daniel Pierce (played by Emmy-winning actor Eric McCormack) is a brilliant neuroscientist in search of answers to neuro- and pscyhological puzzles.
In the "Perception" pilot, we are introduced to Dr. Pierce, a popular university professor, as he displays a couple of his neurological "eccentricities" -- belief in conspiracy theories and avoidance of intimacy. He is introduced to a mystery by one of his favorite former pupils, Kate Moretti (played by Rachel Leigh Cook), now a demoted FBI agent. She asks for his help with a strange case where a lawyer has been murdered and his wife has confessed to the crime. However, Moretti's not buying it and as soon as Pierce talks with the obviously distraught and prone-to-suggestion widow, he finds her the victim of Korsakoff's Syndrome, a disorder that caused amnesia and susceptibility to suggestion.
And he's off...
The show is like a psychological version of "House," except the super-rational House has been replaced with the rational-but-delusional Pierce. And where Dr. House had his team of nearly-as-brilliant-doctors to use as a sounding board for diagnoses and treatments of his suffering patients, Dr. Pierce has his teaching assistant (played by Arjay Smith), his former student/FBI agent friend, a mental apparition that prods his analyses of the information he receives, and his personal psychiatrist (played by Kelly Rowan and who we find out at show's end is also a figment of Dr. Pierce's imagination). And where House seemed to like to intimidate, use scorn, and constantly pry into his team's lives as he worked on solving a particular puzzling case, Dr. Pierce seems fully intent on holding counsel with as few real people as possible.
The twist is that Pierce is fully aware that he's delusional.
But being delusional does not make one crazy, right? Or does it? McCormack plays the character to perfection, readily admitting that he's "crazy" as he goes about his daily routine, teaching, coordinating neurological studies, working with the police and the FBI, and trying to sort out his psychological manifestations.
And just when everything seems all figured out on the pilot episode, Dr. Pierce's helpful apparition asks why he's still hanging around.
This is a neat trick used on "House" when he was unconscious or comatose and trying to solve the problem of why he was there. It was also a continuity prop used in the short-lived NBC whodunit "Raines," which starred the inestimable Jeff Goldblum as the title character, a veteran detective who solved his cases with his mind's projection of the victim. Raines would often converse with the deceased and they, as manifestations of his working mind, would help him solve the cases. And like Dr. Pierce in "Perception," he was the only one that saw those he talked with -- and was fully aware of it.
After the second part of the mystery is solved, we find that Dr. Pierce's psychiatrist is also not a real person (although some watching the show may have figured this out earlier in the show, which could be a sign that too much television has produced a perception of atypical plotline progressions). This is also reminiscent of the sort of internal cognitive therapy practiced by the aforementioned Raines, who also spoke with his deceased partner in an effort to attempt to understand his own mental ramblings. It is also remindful of the "ghosts" seen by Denis Leary's unforgettable character on FX's "Rescue Me."
As noted earlier, the promos for the show do not do it justice. McCormack is exemplary as a delusional neurotic, but, then, to be fair, there were signs of being able to pull off such a role while he portrayed Will on "Will & Grace."
At show's end, the viewer is left watching Dr. Pierce talking with his non-corporeal psychiatrist, shown through the eyes of his understanding assistant, Max Lewicki. He had just given a lecture where he talked about the inner workings of the mind and how, when we attempt to study, to alter, or to treat what is perceived as mental disorders, do we not also alter those persons with the disorders as the truly are?
The question might be asked: In cases of the highly functional, should we? Apparently perception itself is a judgment call...
"Perception" is a well-written, well-acted show and deserves not only better promos and previews but also a chance to develop. With TNT losing "The Closer" in just a few more episodes (the show is ending of its own accord this season), McCormack and Cook's new psychodrama whodunit could slip nicely into its vacated slot.
"Perception" airs on TNT on Mondays at 10:00 p.m. EST.
(photo credit: Tim Ronca, Creative Commons)