June 26, 2013



PERCEPTION:  Tuesday 10PM on TNT

PERCEPTION was something of a bubble show last season, with 3.5M viewers and only an 0.6-0.8 rating most weeks in 18-49s, so TNT clearly realized that the show needed to invest in some therapy over the off-season.

Tonight’s Season 2 premiere rejoined brilliant neuropsychiatrist and amateur detective Professor Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack) 9 months after the events of Season 1, when he’d been committed to a psychiatric ward due to his paranoid schizophrenic delusions, and both we and he discovered that his most central delusion, his imaginary best friend and confidante Natalie (Kelly Rowan) had been based on the real Dr. Caroline Newsome (also Rowan), who was now to be his psychiatrist.  As of tonight’s episode, written by series co-creator Kenneth Biller and Producer Jason Ning, and directed by Greg Beeman, not only is Daniel on his meds, back at school and delusion-free, but he’s begun a romance with Caroline (who’s no longer his shrink).  Meanwhile, Daniel’s FBI liaison Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook) has her own tumult, as her estranged husband Donnie (newly recurring guest star Scott Wolf) is the new Assistant State’s Attorney with whom she’ll have to work.

These are reasonably good ideas, but by the end of the premiere it’s not clear how many of them are going to stick.  The whole premise of Perception–one might fairly say its gimmick–is that Daniel solves crimes via insights he receives in “conversations” with his delusions, so the show can’t really afford for him to get healthy.  And sure enough, due to a risk he perceives in his medication, Daniel is very quickly self-adjusting his dosages, and soon after that he’s chatting with imaginary dead people again and balancing his time between real Caroline and delusion Natalie, so we might as well be back in Season 1.  As for Kate, there’s little in the episode to suggest that we’re going to want to see all that much of her with Donnie, who’s more than a bit of an ass and with whom she doesn’t seem to have much chemistry.

Perception definitely makes an effort.  Tonight’s episode was more interestingly plotted than most of its procedural cohorts bother to be, with most of the storyline revolving around not a conventional whodunnit but whether a convicted murderer who’d been shot in the head could have had his brain so physically affected by the bullet that it literally changed the person he was, transforming him from a stone killer to a decent human being.   (The last segment, in which the released killer was himself shot down, and his murderer almost instantly identified, was much less ambitious.)  Daniel is potentially a complex character, and although Kate isn’t more than a sidekick, McCormack and Cook work well together.

In the end, though, Perception still feels like a collection of short cuts sprinkled with too much silliness.  Daniel’s imaginary conversations are one step removed from comedy bits, and the way his imaginary pals never tell him anything straightforwardly, instead making elliptical and sometimes misleading remarks that he has to puzzle out, becomes annoying.  Apart from Kate, the supporting characters, including Arjay Smith as Daniel’s assistant and LeVar Burton as a friend and colleague, are barely functional.  It’s a show that one would like to see work, but even with the latest changes, it’s still not coming together.  If that lack continues to be reflected in its ratings, there may not be very much to perceive in the show’s long term.



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."