In the battle to have TV's most damaged detective, TNT is doubling down.
Monk and his OCD? The Mentalist's Patrick Jane and his guilt, grief and sleazy psychic past? Unforgettable's Carrie Wells and her rare autobiographical memory? Sherlock's high-functioning sociopath? All child's play compared with Perception's Daniel Pierce, a paranoid schizophrenic who needs a constant companion just to tell him if the people he's chatting with are real or hallucinations.
Take that, Dr. House.
There are obvious downsides to being a paranoid schizophrenic, though in the happy world Perception (TNT, Monday, 10 ET/PT, * * out of four) occupies, they pretty much boil down to the kind of adorably eccentric behavior meant to appeal to viewers while repelling potential dates. But Daniel prefers to look on the bright side; his hallucinations allow him to tap into his subconscious, which is a great help when this neuroscience-professor-by-day is helping his former-student-turned-FBI-agent solve crimes.
This reduction of a serious, debilitating illness to a personality quirk would be as unwatchable as it is insulting were it not for one thing: an appealingly disheveled star turn from Will & Grace's Eric McCormack as Daniel. He's not enough to save the show, but the mix of humor and pathos he brings to the role does at least make watching Perception a bit less of a chore.
Daniel's career as a crime-solver begins when FBI Agent Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook) asks him to consult on a case that seems to involve a terrorist threat. The threat soon vanishes behind a straight-out murder, leaving Moretti without jurisdiction — but that doesn't stop her, Daniel and the witness he hallucinates from solving the crime.
You would think that basing arrests on a schizophrenic's hallucinations would be a defense attorney's dream, but Perception's near-total divorce from reality, while annoying, is not the worst of its crimes. The larger problem is that Daniel's crime-solving abilities are so randomly applied as to be virtually pointless.
Daniel is supposed to be incredibly perceptive and, thanks to his neuroscience expertise, an expert in human behavior. But he does very little on that front to distinguish himself from your run-of-the-mill, mentally balanced TV detective — and nothing that comes anywhere close to being as clever, novel or convincing as the tricks pulled by Sherlock or Patrick Jane.
Which leaves, of course, the hallucinations, Perception's ace in the hole. But rather than aiding the story, they come across as a lazy trick, a way for the writers to solve the mysteries without actually going to the trouble of hiding clues and uncovering leads.
The investigation's hit a dead end? Don't worry: One of Daniel's fantasy witnesses will take the case down a new road.
Follow at your own risk.