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A Few Thoughts on Perception...

Posted on the 24 October 2012 by Virginiamae @SugarRushedBlog

A few thoughts on Perception...

TNT's Perception may be quite cheesy and derivitive, but those qualities have recently come into friction with some surprising moments of ambition, creativity, and occasional near-greatness.  

There can be little question that in the showrunners' pitch to TNT, the words "Castle meets the Mentalist meets A Beautiful Mind" were thrown around.  As intriguing as that sounds, Perception's simplistically cutesy set-up and often cartoonish execution are head-scratching when one also takes into account the copiously detailed, often even too convoluted case-of-the-weeks.

As Dr. Daniel Pierce, the schizophrenic neuroscience professor, Eric McCormack is a perfect example of where this show succeeds and fails.  Doubtless a strong actor, he's sometimes just too over the top in his expressions of Pierce's eccentricities, transparently broadcast in just-a-little-annoying hipster details.  Check him while he's rocking out to classical music on his Walkmen, conducting an invisible orchestra while swathed in a scenester scarf - it's distractingly awkward in its daffiness.  However, McCormack can turn on a dime from being too hammy (usually when he's making insistences as to what the FBI should be doing to solve a case) to being strikingly believable and sympathetic, as in the season finale two-parter (episodes so far superior to most of the rest of the season as to be quite the pleasant surprise).  

The show works best when it stops being ridiculously pleased with its own adorable quirkiness and boils itself down to a compelling series of questions about how Pierce can function as an educator and investigator, much less pursue a romance with Agent Kate Moretti (Rachel Leigh Cook), when he's burdened with serious delusions.  Another positive, and for this show, amazingly subtle, attribute to Perception's still-gestating dynamic is Max Lewicki (Arjay Smith), the sweet and quietly helpful assistant who often saves Pierce from himself.

As for Kate, if she weren't played by an actress who is (as it is well-known far and wide) All That, she might not be very interesting.  She's had very little backstory and sometimes seems a watered-down stereotype based on the female cop characters of other, better shows.  However, Rachel Leigh Cook is playing the role, so we have to like her, and at least Kate and Daniel give us the enjoyable stereotype of these shows that we'd be disappointed without: the will-they-or-won't they part.  I definitely think they need to do an episode showing us the days when Kate was Daniel's student so that we can see the roots of this relationship.

Natalie (Kiki!  Kelly Rowan) worked well enough when she was a figment of Daniel's imagination, but now that she's a real person, I don't see how she can be inserted into the weekly stories without some amount of awkwardness and problematic time-sucking from characters whose relationships with Daniel are both more interesting and more integral to Perception's eventual success (Kate and Lewicki).  The show should be focusing on fleshing out Kate's character, not bringing in someone else to confer with Daniel.  Yes, I liked "Natalie" better when she was a delusion, not to mention the suspension of disbelief required to accept that Dr. What's-her-name just happened to be at the hospital where Daniel admitted himself.

Despite its frustrating tendency to get high on ego, aggrandizing unimportant case details while neglecting character development and obviously patting itself on the back for its supposed ingenuity, Perception has serious potential.  If the powers that be concentrate on streamlining the weekly cases (why not create some long-running story arcs instead of trying to make every case so multifaceted?  Then we'd actually care about the details and they wouldn't seem disposable), focusing on and further developing the characters and characteristics that can work well, and cutting back on the cheese, Perception has the chance to grow into a very watchable procedural.

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