I’m not a fan of the post-modern police procedural, where non-policeman with ‘eccentricities’ become consultants to idiotic police forces, solving crimes with no sense of logic or morality. These shows fill the screen with a cast of non-characters who sit back and watch the star of the show act wacky and draw parallels and connections between things they have no business of understanding. Perception, TNT’s latest attempt to pull in mindless TV-watchers by the millions, is even worse than the average shit pile of a procedural, an insensitive and illogical (not to mention racist) show whose entire premise – a man with what appears to be 15 different mental disorders helps the FBI solve crimes – becomes nothing but a stupid plot gimmick about ten minutes in.
In the parallel Earth of Perception, college professor Daniel Pierce (the unmistakably ordinary Eric McCormick, rocking some obligatory ‘eccentric guy’ facial scrub) spends his days teching neuroscience, dedicating his free time to talking to people who aren’t there who have insights into his mental state, and by chance, the murders he’s trying to solve in each episode. He works for the FBI because former student Kate Moretti returns to Chicago after a demotion from the FBI (because she’s an uppity bitch who’s not afraid to color outside the lines, of course) recruits him to help the FBI solve corporate conspiracy crimes nobody else can figure out.
To some degree, watching a police procedural from the last decade is an exercise in willful ignorance: police investigations on these shows are not merely exaggerated for dramatic effort, they’re completely fictionalized without any sort of regard for morality or realism. In the show’s first case, there are a collection of murderous lab doctors, adulterous assistants, evil, horny corporate lawyers, and arrogant CEO’s only concerned with bad publicity and the bottom line. But even the contrivances of love triangles, doctors who go ‘a little bit crazy’ (a comment that brings guarded smiles from everyone, like it’s some big fucking in joke that the show’s about mentally unhinged individuals), and Big Medicine cover-ups aren’t enough for the show, which in its hour, manages to offend just about anyone with a mental disorder – or anyone of color, for that matter.
There’s a particularly disturbing scene about three-quarters in where Daniel brings Kate to some unknown mental facility, to visit a patient he apparently knows (we’re not given an introduction, we just magically show up in the room where the important conversation happens). In this world, people who can’t communicate with language are human lie detectors, who can watch videos of President Bush and Clinton, and laugh at them, implying that they’re lying because they find vocal inflections of liars (something the normal human mind just can’t determine, nor is it measurable by science) to be hilarious. I mean Kate literally refers to him as a ‘human lie detector’ – this is the kind of ignorance we’re talking about on this show.
And I haven’t even mentioned his assistant, a black college student who obeys Daniel’s every whim and selfish rant about cassette tapes because Daniel is letting him live in a room in his house. We don’t know why he’s following around this guy, telling him that the people he’s talking to aren’t really there, but I find it very uncomfortable how the rich white guy is trading room and board to the under-priviledged black student who accepts both menial tasks and occasional vocal abuse from his master- I mean, professor and employer.
Fans of police procedurals will no doubt proclaim Perception to be the answer to the departing The Closer (which also sucks) – if for no reason except that they are back-to-back on the Tuesday night schedule for now. But thanks to its cardboard acting, shitty plot gimmicks and fill-in-the-blank formula, Perception is just another dull hour of television that will fit right in with the network that specializes in The Mentalist re-runs. Top it off with its amazing amount of ignorance toward people with mental disorders, and the uncomfortably obvious racism, and this show sinks right down there with the Cold Cases and Unforgettables at the bottom of the television shit pile.
- LeVar Burton as the dean of the school? Why, because he’s associated with reading well?
- another casting note: Rachel Leigh Cook looks way too young to be an FBI agent, and her character does nothing but make googly-eyes and coy smiles every time Daniel makes another unrealistic plot connection.
- apparently being schizophrenic also means conducting classic music on desks in police stations, having the ability to do crosswords well, possess the capacity to humanize with other conspiracy theorists who think sugar is a government-distributed toxin, and also solves crimes and mental discrepensies through anagrams fed to him through hallucinations of people who have the answers to crimes that real police detectives don’t.
- “she makes Nicole Ritchie look fat”… when was this script written, 2004?
- the only thing Eric McCormick knows how to do to convey ‘thinking hard’ and ‘being crazy’ is make his face as blank as possible, staring off-screen into something we only hope is the vision of a talking golden unicorn whispering the secrets of government conspiracies in his ear.
- if you thought the ending shot was a big ‘surprise’…. then I don’t know what to say. It was so painfully obvious about ten seconds into their scene where the show was going.
- In short, Daniel is a schizo Batman who doesn’t even have to go through the problems of real detectives like obtaining warrants or analyzing evidence… the answers are in his brain that isn’t really connected to reality – but is jusssst enough to be wacky and still solves crimes.
What did you think of TNT’s latest shitpile (loaded question, I know)? Feel free to leave your thoughts/comments below – obviously I won’t be covering this series week-to-week, so now’s your chance to speak your voice on Perception!