Perception Series Premiere Review: What Did You Think?

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It's easy to look at TNT's new crime procedural, Perception, and have your thoughts wander to a list full of other television series that have contained lead characters with quirky, eccentric and overly observant tendencies that help drive them to cracking cases when some just can't fathom the truth behind the clues.

Programs like MonkPsychNumb3rs and a slew of others have come and gone adding certain depth, humor and dramatic storytelling by often exploring the characters in addition to solving the mysteries. It seems to be a time-tested formula that's garnered successes and failures, but won't ever quit.

Which begs less of the question, "Do we need another?" and more so: "What makes Perception a compelling take on the popular genre?"

Because let's face it, as much as critics could groan about the similarities of the concept across shows, the fact remains that there's something entertaining about watching a mystery unfold, especially when the sleuths themselves can be fascinating to watch.

Professor Daniel Pierce

Eric McCormack leads the cast as Dr. Daniel Pierce, a professor of neuroscience with a brilliant mind that allows him to see and read everything in a vastly different light, hence the title of the show.

Except while the scruffily good looking actor has often used his charm and smile to encapsulate his characters, his portrayal of Pierce is much more seriously tormented and driven. McCormack throws himself fully into the role providing a dichotomy between his confident demeanor in the classroom and zeroing in on the unseen answers, and his discomfort with the people around him.

He's socially awkward. Sort of.

Ultimately, though, it is Pierce's struggles with schizophrenia and seeing particular hallucinations that become both the gift and the curse for McCormack's character.

It's these imaginary people that help him solve the cases, essentially figments of his subconscious trying to spell out the clues as his fastidious brain works endlessly to get the answer. McCormack relies on a focused furrow of expression and subtle movements of his fingers and body to help bring to life the character that isn't the "freak" that everyone else seems to think he is.

I mean, c'mon, the guy has college co-eds throwing themselves at him.

There's certainly a determination to make this character succeed and McCormack's likeability shines through so that you hope he can learn to handle the schizophrenia and not succumb to it, a la John Nash in the film A Beautiful Mind.

His trusty sidekick (or is it the other way around?) is the youthfully pretty Rachael Leigh Cook, who continues to look as good as she did back in the teen flick She's All That. Except now she wears red trench coats and jumps off fire escapes. I wonder what Freddie Prinze Jr. would have to say about that?

Her Kate Moretti was a former pupil of Pierce and while the character claims to be as unorthodox and intuitive as her past professor, for the pilot, she seems to fall back into a place of observe and learn. I just hope we get to see her show off her set of skills and prove at some point that the student has become the master.

I wish Arjay Smith (as Max Lewicki) had a little bit more to do, but even with his few scenes, I already am looking forward to seeing what he can do with the character and what ways he will work with Pierce. Hopefully he adds a sense of lighthearted hope around the serious professor.

The premiere does a good job setting up the style of the show and introducing the characters but doesn't necessarily jump off the page right away. And one of my biggest fears is the use of Pierce's hallucinations as simple plot device to help move a case along rather than be utilized as a vivid look into his wondrously gifted mind.

Some of the best scenes were less about solving the case but watching him lecture his students during class where the man illustrates his comfort and prowess in the subjects that he knows. It works as a nice bookend piece for the episode and provides a certain narration for the context of the hour as well.

Even his conversations with Natalie Vincent, who he once dated and is now his close friend, helps ground Pierce and find a stability for him in the unstable world. Of course, things aren't always what they seem, but after the first twist that really just sets up the premise and backdrop of his character, Natalie's reveal is less shocking and more sad.

So does Perception prove that it stands out on its own merits?

In a way, yes, but it certainly takes a bit to get itself going and the subsequent episodes really help build upon and further establish the characters. The show isn't perfect and at times certain moments (the human lie detector anyone?) just felt too silly to be real, but the cast is amiable and the take different enough to be appealing. Although sometimes I wished a little more humor might lighten the very serious mood of the show, the pilot stays true to itself and promises that there's a long road ahead both for Daniel Pierce and the cases he solves.

Now whether viewers are ready to take that mind altering trip? I guess that all depends on your perception.


Editor Rating: 3.4 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.2 / 5.0 (385 Votes)

Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.


The only negitave comments about the show had to do with politics. people get off your high horse and stop being so defensive. Look if we cant make fun of our presidents in tv shows without it having a clear defined one sided message then that doesn't leave much room for creativity because writers will constantly be having to tip toe around politics in their scripts. your seeing what you want to see, you might as well be pointing out things that arent actually there!


Why is this being compared to Monk and The Mentalist? These are three completely different shows.. or at the very least three completely different characters.. and the tones of the show are vastly different. Monk was cartoonish at best. the Mentalist was great, the first season, decent the next and terrible now.. I love Patrick Jane but the show has deteriorated.. this show is compelling and makes us think.. not a parlor trick, but a real look at what the mind is capable of, whether good or bad.. I like a show that makes me think, ponder life and all that it comprises. Monk, The Mentalist, Lie to Me and anything else you can think of does not do that.. This does.. I hope it lasts.


I like the show- loved the first episode, the second one was not as good, but I still think it is in the introduction phase.. My husband is a neurologist and functioning schizophrenia is real. I disagree with Linda that they are saying he excells because of his illness- quite the opposite-he is tortured, he does not know what is real and what is not.. Erik McCormack is doing a great job!! Can't wait to see how it plays out


I actually like the show, but I do agree RLC is a little stiff. But about her being too young, Gillian Anderson was in her early twenties when she started the X-Files. I actually have a comment about the second episode which I watched this morning. The writers need to check their facts a little better. I live in the Chicago area where the show is set. The character who's identity was stolen said she bought her shoes at Marshall Field's. Unless she bought them over ten years ago it would have been kind of hard since that's how long ago Macy's took over the store and changed the name.


Why do people keep commenting that the show is a rip off of A beautiful mind? what if it is. If it was a movie and you wanted to say that well fine. But it's a tv show and concepts of tv shows come from somewhere; a preconceived or other idea. Is the show good? Do you like it? Whether it is similar to a previously shown movie is irrelevant.


Poorly written and acted really poor copy of The Mentalist. would rather listen to the radio than watch this crap.


Watched the first episode. Won't be watching any more. Sophomoric at best. Leaned so far to the left, it was laughable, until I considered the possibility the show was about how the far left lives in a delusion.


Bishop Berkeley would be thrilled with the "reality" definition.
Unluckily, someone stopped a philosophy studies way too early. Unfortunately, the psychology studies aren't finished too and, as a result, we have this: a clone between "Monk", "Lie to me" and other shows. It is amazing how the bunch of shallow shows is getting their way through. Are those guys from TV companies brainless? Or is it a lack of good scripts? No matter what, it is good to have this as a tool to check if we still can distinguish good things from bad ones.
P.S. I apologize for my English; it is not my first language.


I am a psychologist, and had trouble suspending my disbelief that hallucinations would be so helpful. It was interesting, but I just don't buy it. In A Beautiful Mind, he excelled despite his schizophrenia. In this series, he suceeds because of his of his schizophrenia. No. It just does not work. McComack is good though.
PS Doug, get over yourself.


I love Eric McCormack and this is a difficult role - but I don't like the show at all! I watched the second episode tonight and was bored to tears! Of course it followed a fantastic episode of "The Closer". "Perception" failed miserably! I won't be watching it again and won't be surprised when it is canceled.

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