January 15, 2013

THE SKED’S PILOT + 1 REVIEW: “Deception”


DECEPTION:  Monday 10PM on NBC

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and the production of episodes for the regular season: a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads. The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting, and even story. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.’

Previously… on DECEPTION:  When pregnant socialite Vivian Bowers is found dead of an apparent overdose, her childhood friend and NYPD Detective Joanna Locasto (Meagan Good) goes undercover to find her killer.  “Undercover,” in this case, means going back to live and work with the Bowers clan, founders of a multinational pharmaceutical firm, who once employed Joanna’s mother as a maid.  Vivian claims to be out of work and newly escaped from an abusive marriage, and just as she was as a teen, she finds herself becoming enmeshed once again with family head Robert (Victor Garber), his wife Sophia (Katherine LaNasa), elder son Edward (Tate Donovan)–who’s already been accused of another murder–and his brother, bad-boy Julian (Wes Brown), who was involved with Joanna back in the day.  There’s also Mia (Ella Rae Peck), who was raised as Vivian’s younger sister, but who’s actually her illegitimate child.

Episode 2:  In just its second hour, written by series creator Liz Heldens and directed by Jonah Pate, Deception is alarmingly light on plot.  Although we’re repeatedly reminded through the course of the episode that Joanna has just a couple of days to find out who the father of Vivian’s baby was and whether there’s a problem with the company’s new cancer medication, mostly the show just runs in place.  We waste time at a family lacrosse game, where Edward shows off his temper again (we get it, we get it–he could be a killer), at a moonlight swimming party (verrrry carefully photographed so that none of the topless women on hand reveal side-boob), at some target shooting, and so on.  Even the characters themselves know they’re wasting their time–Joanna’s supervisor (and sometime boyfriend) Will (Laz Alonso) says out loud how silly it is for him to bother trying to get Edward to confess to his sister’s murder–and then goes ahead and does it, as badly as he’d expected. There’s no forward progress until the last few minutes of the episode, and then it’s as a result of an idiotic contrivance:  Vivian has spent the whole hour unsuccessfully trying to guess Robert’s computer password so she can check on the reports regarding the new drug, until finally Robert brings up, out of nowhere, a childhood nickname he’d had for Edward, so ham-handedly that he might as well finish the sentence with “By the way, that’s my super-secret computer password, just in case you were wondering.”

All of this might be OK if Deception were using this time to deepen its characters, but they remain as one-dimensional as they were in the pilot.  Edward scowls at everyone so we’ll remember his violent streak, Mia smokes cigarettes and looks rebellious, while Joanna wrinkles her brow as she ponders Julian’s attractiveness and swears to Will that she’ll crack the case.  The show actually stoops so low as to have one of those scenes where a character (Robert’s vengeful ex-mistress) tells another (Sophia) something supposedly shocking, making Sophia bend over, her body apparently wracked with sobs… until she straightens up and snarls “Is that what you were expecting?”  It’s like watching an hour-long version of the old SCTV soap parody “Days of the Week.”  Only Victor Garber manages the odd moment of humanity here or there, and that’s far from enough to keep the enterprise in motion.

Deception did passably well in the ratings last week, but can’t afford to slip much from that level.  At the moment, there’s very little about the storyline or characters that would compel viewers to come aboard, and NBC will have to hope that the Biggest Loser audience chooses to remain where they are.  At a moment in TV filled with high-class soaps, it’s a snooze.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  A Good Time to Catch Up On Your DVR



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."