The Telefile

Perception: We Perceive a Snoozer

by Ethan Alter July 10, 2012 6:00 am
<i>Perception</i>: We Perceive a Snoozer

If Rizzoli & Isles and Franklin & Bash are feeding your appetite for more basic cable crime solving pairs, TNT has another duo for you: Dr. Daniel Pierce and FBI Agent Kate Moretti. They're the characters at the center of the network's latest procedural, Perception, which premiered last night following the debut of The Closer's final batch of episodes. (You mean that show isn't over yet? Its departure has been dragged out almost as long as one of Cher's "Farewell" concert tours. Oh, and Spoilers Ahead if you missed last night's Perception premiere.)

Just like Franklin & Bash, Pierce & Moretti are played by two pop culture relics from a bygone era (in this case, the late-'90s), Eric McCormick from Will & Grace and Rachel Leigh Cook of She's All That semi-fame. (Although she'll also be Josie McCoy to us. Pussycats 4 EVAH!) He's a brilliant neuroscientist whose Achilles' Heel is his paranoid schizophrenia, which manifests itself in his penchant for carrying on conversations with people who aren't really there, from murder victims to his best bud Natalie Vincent (The O.C.'s Kelly Rowan)... and if you didn't see that last twist coming, you've clear never seen A Beautiful Mind. (If we had to be followed around by a hallucinatory best friend, we'd pick Rowan over Paul Bettany as well.) She's a novice agent and a former student of Pierce's who seeks his expert advice whenever she's stuck on an investigation. Together, they solved a case involving the death of a pharmaceutical company muckety-muck, the specific details of which were indistinguishable from virtually every other procedural on television. As professionally produced and as generally bland as anything else on TNT (Leverage being an occasional exception) Perception will probably fit in just fine with the network's line-up, but we doubt we'll be following the continuing adventures of Pierce & Moretti. Here are the five things Perception would have to do before we could perceive ourselves watching it on a regular basis.

1. Lose the School Setting
Considering the time commitment that TV crime-solving demands, it seems unreasonable to expect Pierce to continue to pull double-duty as both a professor and and FBI consultant. Really, the department should just hire him on full-time and if he really misses teaching, he could offers his services to a night school or something. And since the school scenes are already the least interesting parts of the show, it wouldn't be that much of a creative sacrifice. On the one hand, it would mean that poor LeVar Burton -- who plays Pierce's pal and the dean of the university -- would be out of a job, but he deserves better than this thankless role anyway. Maybe he could pitch TNT on a Reading Rainbow For Adults concept instead. We'd love to see a celebrity guest read a few pages from Fifty Shades of Grey, for example...

2. Give Moretti Her Own Hang-Up
These odd couple partnerships work best when each member of the duo has their own specific personal issue that inevitably causes them to clash with their counterpart. But in the premiere at least, the only vice (or, indeed, any personality trait) that Moretti displays is a healthy appetite for burgers. Obviously, it's hard to compete with paranoid schizophrenia, but c'mon writers... give Cook something to play at least, if only so that McCormick doesn't have to carry the show on his lonesome. Because as Will & Grace so often showed, he's fine as part of a team, but not so much on his lonesome.

3. In Lieu Of That, Replace Cook
If the show isn't interested in giving Moretti a personality, a better move would be to replace Cook with an actress who knows how to make the most out of the limited material that's doled out to the sidekick. (Think Bitty Schram before she got deep-sixed from Monk.) So sticking with the late '90s teen movie milieu, how about Clea DuVall? At least she'll bring an attitude to the part that, left to her own devices, Cook simply doesn't possess.

4. Guest Star Stunts
Oftentimes, we roll our eyes whenever a show tries to tempt us into watching by reuniting two actors from a series we loved much more than the one they're appearing on now. But we admit to being intrigued by the guest star potential promised by this cast. Just picture Debra Messing popping up as one of Pierce's hallucinations (bonus points if she plays her Smash character, who would actually make a lot more sense as the invention of a paranoid schizophrenic) or Rosario Dawson and Tara Reid dropping by as friends from Moretti's days at the FBI Academy. And if they insist on keeping Burton around, that does at least give them access to the sizeable Star Trek talent pool. Michael Dorn, you're needed on the bridge.

5. Write Better Mysteries
And that's really the crux of the issue for any procedural, isn't it? If the crimes are interesting, people will keep coming back. If they're not -- as was the case here -- you're not giving them much incentive to stick around, especially when you're also asking them to put up with such a dull collection of characters. Others may see it differently, but Perception struck us chiefly as a gimmick in search of a show.

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