TV Review: Eric McCormack Stars in TNT’s Familiar ‘Perception’

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CHICAGO – There’s nothing particularly wrong with TNT’s new crime procedural, “Perception,” debuting tonight at 9pm CST after the return of their mega-hit “The Closer,” which is starting its final season, but there’s not enough particularly right to recommend it. Despite efforts to intensify its quirky crime-solver’s personality, it just feels too familiar and won’t stand out enough in a season dominated by much-better shows.

HollywoodChicago.com Television Rating: 2.5/5.0
Television Rating: 2.5/5.0

The fact is that premiering after the very enthralling season premiere of “The Closer” is more likely to hurt “Perception” than help it. Sure, the ratings may be better than with a lesser lead-in, but the characters on “The Closer” are so strong and well-defined, especially the lead. Such is not the case here as everything blends together to do little more than remind one of better shows and movies. There’s a bit of “Monk,” a bit of “A Beautiful Mind,” a bit of “The Mentalist,” and a bit of a dozen or so crime-solving shows that fail to stand out from the crowd. I like what McCormack is trying to do here and some of the supporting cast works but it’s just not a memorable enough show to stick.

Perception
Perception
Photo credit: TNT

McCormack plays Dr. Daniel Pierce, a neuroscience professor who teaches his students about the intricacies of perception. Who is to say what is real and what is not? How do you know that what you see as the color blue is what I see as the color blue? And it can be taken much further than that. How do you know when you’re dreaming versus when you’re awake?

Perception
Perception
Photo credit: TNT

Pierce isn’t just a good teacher. He’s a paranoid schizophrenic. He has little social tact, can’t stand crowded situations, and, most remarkably, has full-length conversations with people who aren’t even there. And, of course, they often help him solve crimes. He’s a hallucinating detective. It’s like the quirks of Adrian Monk taken to extremes. While Pierce can’t hold a normal conversation or stay stable in a police station, he can look at a crime scene differently and even get clues from people no one else can see.

It’s certainly a bizarre set-up for a crime show — replacing DNA evidences with anagram-giving hallucinations. But McCormack is game for it. He doesn’t over-play the oddities of his character, keeping him more low-key than other actors might have chosen with the same material. He’s the best thing about the show. And supporting performances by LeVar Burton as the school dean and Kelly Rowan and his shrink are effective. Less so are Arjay Smith as his helper and Rachael Leigh Cook as the FBI Agent who calls on Pierce to help with her most elusive cases.

I suppose it’s appropriate that your response to “Perception” comes down to how you approach it. The fact is that it doesn’t compare to similar shows not just over the years but on its own network right now. And TV doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We can’t watch Daniel Pierce and NOT think of “Monk” or “The Mentalist.” If you completely ignore that and want to just see a mystery solved in a unique manner, there are elements of “Perception” that work. But if you put your mind to it, you can probably find something better to watch.

“Perception” stars Eric McCormack, Rachael Leigh Cook, Arjay Smith, Kelly Rowan, and LeVar Burton. It premieres on TNT on Monday, July 9, 2012 at 9pm CST.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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