REVIEW: Perception (TNT – Monday, 10:00 p.m.)

In Perception, Eric McCormack plays Dr. Daniel Pierce, an eccentric neuroscience professor with paranoid schizophrenia who is recruited by the FBI to help solve complex cases. Pierce has an intimate knowledge of human behavior and a masterful understanding of the way the mind works. He also has an uncanny ability to see patterns and look past people’s conscious emotions to see what lies beneath.

Pierce’s mind may be brilliant, but it’s also damaged. He struggles with hallucinations and paranoid delusions brought on by his schizophrenia. Oddly, Daniel considers some of his hallucinations to be a gift. They occasionally allow him to make connections that his conscious mind can’t yet process. At other times, the hallucinations become Daniel’s greatest curse, leading him to behave in irrational, potentially dangerous ways.

Daniel’s mental condition and offbeat manner make it difficult for him to achieve the close friendships and intimate relationships he craves. He’s in his element when solving an intricate puzzle or a coded message. But in unfamiliar situations, he can quickly become overwhelmed, and only his favorite music and a crossword puzzle have the power to make things right again.

Rachael Leigh Cook co-stars as FBI agent Kate Moretti, Pierce’s former student who asks him to consult on certain cases. Unlike her colleagues, Kate is willing to look past Daniel’s peculiarities. Also in Daniel’s life is Max Lewicki (Arjay Smith), who serves as his teaching assistant. His primary job is to keep Pierce in line and on task, whether that means grading midterms or laying out Pierce’s wardrobe for the day. And Natalie Vincent (Kelly Rowan) is Daniel’s best friend and every bit his intellectual equal. In addition, award-winning actor LeVar Burton (Roots, Star Trek: The Next Generation) will play a recurring role as Paul Haley, a dean at the university and Pierce’s friend. – TNT

Score:     55 out of 100

What do you get when you cross a delusional schizophrenic college professor and a cute and sassy FBI agent? Well, in this case, you get a typical formulaic police procedural with a gimmick that’s trying to trick audiences into thinking it’s actually clever, original and full of  compelling plot twists.  It’s not and in fact it’s pretty lame.

Now, we’ve talked about gimmicks on police procedurals before, most recently with the CBS series Unforgettable and the now canceled Bones spinoff, The Finder, and the gimmicks we are talking about concern the main character who has some special ability or feature that’s not supernatural but is rare that gives him a special insight into solving crimes that the local police and federal agencies simply can’t handle on their own (see: Numb3rsThe MentalistMonk, and Psych, to name a few).  Most of the time, it doesn’t work because at the end of the day, a generic police procedural is a generic police procedural and they’ve all been done before.

Perception is no different except for the fact that the goal of this show is apparently to throw so much crap at the audience between Pierce’s delusions and Monk-like obsessive-compulsive idiosyncracies and convoluted stories and plot twists that they utterly confuse the audience into believing that this is a unique and quality show.

“And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for that meddling schizophrenic and his plucky sidekick.”

We normally don’t do reviews without watching at least the first three episodes of a series but we couldn’t get past two with Perception because it was so eye-rolling embarrassing to watch and it became obvious very quickly that the show was going to follow the same routine every episode and beyond the pilot there are simply no surprises in formula and procedure.  The only thing that is surprising is how completely ridiculous the premise of each scenario of each episode is and that they actually expect us to believe the ludicrous plot twists they throw at us.  And, of course, every week the ultimate suspect (because of course, they’ve gone through several by this point) when confronted by Professor Cuckoo-For-Cocoa-Puffs and Special Agent Sassy-Pants with the entire scenario of how they killed the victim, the suspect admits everything in the obligatory Scooby Doo ending.

The characters are incredibly poorly written to the point of being silly, however, they are likable, albeit cartoonish, and the performances by the actors are fine considering the garbage material they have to work with (although, it is very difficult to take Rachel Leigh Cook seriously as an FBI agent… she looks like she’s 16).

All things considering, though, as mediocre and silly as the show is, it’s not horrible and unwatchable.  It’s just very typical and it’s trying very hard not be and it’s a bit of a shame because the premise seemed to have a lot of potential.  Can the show improve?  Unlikely. The producers and writers seem locked into this safe formula with all the extra junk thrown in for good measure.

Chance of Renewal: 100%

As dopey as this type of show is, audiences eat this generic fare up and it’s a bit of a no-brainer for TNT to renew what is an incredibly inexpensive show to produce (and it’s filmed in Canada, as well dropping the costs that much more), only has a 10-episode summer schedule and is bound to be a ratings boon for the network.  Expect renewal by the halfway point of the season.

Watch compete episodes of Perception, here.