March 11, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere TV Review: “Deception”


DECEPTION:  Sunday 10PM on ABC – In the Queue

For its newest trick, the House of Greg Berlanti presents a crime procedural so insubstantial it seems to disappear before your very eyes.  DECEPTION, created by Chris Fedak (co-creator of NBC’s vintage Chuck) mixes together tropes like a summer camp magic show:  the smug amateur detective with a special expertise,the uptight real cop who reluctantly teams up with him, the will-they-or-won’t-they chemistry between them, the fiendish master criminal who recurs as a serialized link of the standalone episodes, and so on.  It’s smoothly handled, for those who want to watch moving images for an hour without needing to exercise many brain cells.

Even the show’s central premise is second-hand, ripped off from Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, as we learn early on (spoiler alert) that the way magician Cameron Black (Jack Cutmore-Scott) has managed throughout his career to convince audiences that he’s in two places at once is because he actually has a secret identical twin (also Cutmore-Scott), Jonathan.  Jonathan is framed for murder by the mysterious woman played by Mr. Robot‘s Stephanie Corneliussen, and once Cameron deduces that a seemingly unrelated presto-change-o crime must have also been assembled by a renegade magician, he latches onto FBI agent Kay Daniels (Ilfenesh Hadera) and offers to help her solve it, in the hope of tracking down the woman who put Jonathan in jail.

The pilot, directed by David Nutter, rushes from one implausibly elaborate illusion to the next, allowing its characters to set up in minutes what would probably take weeks in real life, all to accomplish with split-second timing aims that could be realized far more simply.  Cutmore-Scott, who was irritating as the know-it-all lead in Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life, gives much the same performance here, and with the same less than ideal American accent.  Hadera is mostly called upon to be his straight man, alternately exasperated and enticed by Cameron’s out-of-the-box ideas and refusal to follow the rules.  So far, the talented supporting cast (Vinny Jones, Lenora Crichlow and Juston Chon as magician’s assistants, Laila Robins and Amaury Nolasco on the FBI side) have little to do beyond the occasional quip or burst of exposition, although Fedak’s Chuck was notable for deepening its ensemble characters over the seasons.

Deception is harmless, and the viewers who have just watched 2 hours of American Idol probably aren’t looking for ambitious drama in the hour that follows it.  It’s a professional piece of work, for the most part.  What it lacks, though, is the slightest hint of magic.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."