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Watching TV: "Perception"

By Rich Heldenfels Published: July 9, 2012

From Sunday's Beacon Journal:

TV can’t seem to get enough of flawed masterminds, characters whose brilliance or powers of perception are so considerable that their personality flaws can be forgiven.

Of course, those flaws are also what make the characters intrigue viewers. If Sherlock Holmes simply looked at a few clues, detected the criminal and went back to his chair and a book of Sudoku, there wouldn’t be much drama to be had.

Instead, we have gotten the likes of Numb3rs and Lie to Me and Bones, and of characters such as Gregory House and Adrian Monk — and Carrie Wells, the damaged heroine of CBS’ Unforgettable, who proved compelling enough that CBS rescinded the show’s cancellation. (It will be back in 2013.) Sherlock Holmes himself is a perennial, reappearing not only in the recent British series but in a new CBS series, Elementary, in the fall.

But the latest addition to this crew is Daniel Pierce, played by Will & Grace’s Eric McCormack in the new series Perception. It premieres at 10 p.m. Monday on TNT, immediately after the return of The Closer.

Pierce is a neuroscience professor whose understanding of human behavior lets him know very quickly if people are lying, and if they are capable of heinous crimes that law-enforcement asks his help in solving.

But he is also a paranoid schizophrenic. He can come unhinged in social situations. He is prone to hallucinations. But sometimes the hallucinations are a way for him to sort out the information in a case. And there are few people, among them FBI agent Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook), who are able to deal with his flaws in order to get his insights.

The show’s territory will look familiar; the visual presentation of Pierce’s thoughts will remind you of similar processes in the big-screen A Beautiful Mind, for example. But the first episode was intriguing in its presentation of Pierce’s character, especially the way the audience is not always sure if it is seeing something real or something Pierce has imagined.

But in a couple of later episodes, Pierce’s ways were less a part of the story, with more of a focus on crime-solving. And that focus was too pedestrian, and Pierce in that context was too dull.

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