TV - Perception


However you look at it, Susan Omand wants to make you aware of the hidden gem that is Perception...

Perception is coming to the end of its run now, having been cancelled after the third series, but I wanted to give you a heads up to the crime drama series before it heads for the forgotten corners of “Cult TV”.

I came to Perception, having looked for a replacement series to the genius of Numb3rs and the idea behind the series, written and created by Kenneth Biller and Michael Sussman of Enterprise and Voyager fame, was an intriguing one. Dr Daniel Pierce is a neuropsychiatrist and lecturer that helps out the FBI with complex crime cases. So far so Mentalist/Elementary/any “expert” crime drama you can think of, right? But here’s the difference. A lot of the cases involve mental illness of some sort and Dr Pierce usually has to diagnose or deal with, in a House sort of way, that the person has the illness in order to clear them of the crime they are accused of committing. However, Dr Pierce himself is mentally ill, requiring him to keep his mind busy, solving puzzles or listening to music, and requires strict routines in order to function successfully. He also has regular hallucinations, personifications of his sub-conscious, who, it turns out, help him to solve the cases. Mostly they are hallucinations of people related to the case who ask the right questions at the right time to come to the answers, but there is one hallucination that keeps cropping up, his” girlfriend” Natalie, who he talks to regularly in trying to keep his own life on track. Add in to this mix a feisty FBI Agent for him to work with, along with her DA ex-husband, a Dean at the University that is always trying to get him to do more for the university and its sponsors, and an assistant that does his best to hold everyone’s lives together and you have a great core cast for a strong concept.

I must mention the casting too because, on paper, it looks like it really wouldn’t work. Dr Pierce is played by Eric McCormack, Will of Will and Grace. Yes, the humour is still there, but he manages to encompass the huge complexities in Pierces character very well, making highly believable both as an academic and someone who is dealing with a lot under the surface. The FBI agent, Moretti, is ably played by Rachel Leigh Cook, who I’d seen previously in bit parts in Psych and Las Vegas, and making the step up to a main character suited her well. As an aside, the great thing with the relationship between the two is that there’s no sexual tension, it’s purely a strong working relationship and a very close platonic friendship – refreshing in the day and age when sex sells. Another newcomer stepping up to a main role after several bit parts on TV and minor film roles is Arjay Smith and he’s definitely a name to keep in mind for the future as he has a real assuredness on the screen. Back to the big names though, and the final three in the core cast, the first of which is Moretti’s DA ex-husband, played by Scott Wolf, who you’ll recognise as being the “bad guy” Jonathan Cole from NCIS season 9 and Chad Decker in V. Natalie, the hallucination girlfriend, is Kelly Rowan, best known for being mom, Kirsten Cohen, in The OC, and the Dean of the University, Paul Haley, is LeVar Burton.... wait, what? Yes Geordi LaForge himself, in a non tech role and without the visor, it took a bit of getting used to. So, no, on paper it shouldn’t work – sci-fi, sitcom and soap characters with bit part actors and bad guys making up the core cast of a Crime Drama series. But it just does.

As I said at the start, Perception is coming to the end of its run now, and, to be honest, it’s probably the right time as the episodes are starting to become a bit “samey”. As a show, it’s not as complex at Lie to Me, or as character driven as Elementary or House, but if you like them, you really should give Perception a go before it disappears.

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