PERCEPTION: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5)
Eric McCormack as DR. DANIEL PIERCE
Rachael Leigh Cook as SPECIAL AGENT KATE MORETTI
Arjay Smith as MAX LEWICKI
Kelly Rowan as NATALIE VINCENT
Created by: Kenneth Biller & Michael Sussman
Studio: ABC Studios
BY KEVIN CARR
For all the bemoaning that critics do about the all-dreaded formula of television, there’s a lot to be said for the strong use of it. After all, even more than movies themselves, television series can often live and die by formula. Only occasionally does a show break the formula and have success. But for every “Lost” that survives, there are dozens of other formula-bucking shows that disappear with virtually no audience at all.
That’s not to say that formula is god. It’s not. Too many shows cut from the same cloth can lead to a boring line-up. And poorly constructed formula shows (like the truly awful “Body of Proof”) can be the worst of its kind. However, sometimes a good formula with a little work and some good actors behind it can make a perfectly enjoyable series.
This happens to be the case with “Perception.” The series follows Dr. Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack) as a college professor with schizophrenia. He has multiple episodes in which he talks to people who are not there and hallucinates entire events. However, his powerful mind is also great at solving crimes. With the help of Special Agent Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook), he solves crimes for the FBI.
While not a formula that goes back decades, this is one that is quite popular now. A female of some authority works with an eccentric and sometimes socially jarring strong male personality to solve mysteries. We see this in police procedural shows like “The Mentalist” and “Psych,” as well as less obvious shows like “Monk” and “House M.D.”
The formula works because the troubled male lead can act out of sorts, throwing societal norms and sometimes human decency out the window in order to solve a crime. He gives the audience a voice against what can often be seen as a restrictive world. However, all of this nastiness has the goal of catching criminals and bringing people to justice. The ends justify the means, especially when those means serve our entertainment.
On a week-to-week basis, “Perception” is a nice throwaway procedural. Being a basic cable series rather than a major network primetime show allows it to be a little more relaxed. It’s not trying to bring in an insane number of viewers. It’s just trying to carve a nice niche in its time slot.
Unlike some other procedurals you’ll find (including “The Mentalist” and the recently cancelled “The Closer,” seen on the same network, TNT), “Perception” doesn’t get too dark. This is a danger with police shows, especially the murder-of-the-week one. It’s hard to deal with the weight of human emotion each week without letting the show get too depressing.
Ultimately, the chemistry of the show works, and while we see some overused concepts (including the affliction known as face-blindness, which has been seen on “House M.D.” and more recently the new season of “Arrested Development,” albeit to a more humorous end), it’s a nice slice of escapism on basic cable.
The two-disc DVD set contains all 10 episodes of the first season in time to catch up for the second season in the summer of 2013. There are no special features on the discs, so it’s the kind of set only a fan of the show who will watch the series several times will want to pick up.