Add “Perception” to a mini-trend in TV crime procedurals where the guy provides the brains and his female partner delivers the muscle. Other than that, this vehicle for “Will & Grace’s” Eric McCormack is really just more of the same-old, same-old, with a colorfully flawed (eccentric or crazy, take your pick) hero solving cases that prove almost wholly generic. It’s no accident networks keep replicating this formula, but whether reality or mere perception, the result here is kind of a snooze.
“What is reality?” McCormack’s brilliant neuroscientist Daniel Pierce asks his university students, and the answer isn’t as simple as one might think, either for him or them. Troubled and unable to make emotional connections, Pierce gets by thanks to help from his trust-teaching assistant (Arjay Smith) and a patient if exasperated university dean (as if there’s any other kind in such fare as this), played by LeVar Burton.
Still, that’s all pretty much window dressing to Pierce’s relationship with a former student turned FBI agent, Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook, looking even more like she ought to be playing Nancy Drew than most youngish female TV cops). She enlists Pierce for his insights on a case, and before you can say “Please fill ‘The Closer’s’ shoes,” they’re off and running on a series of murders and mysteries, with Kate using Pierce as a consultant.
On the plus side, series creators Ken Biller and Mike Sussman (both alums of the “Star Trek” reboots) do confine Pierce to deciphering crimes with his brains, not tackling bad guys. But he’s merely another in a recent line of Sherlock Holmes wannabes, including “Psych,” “The Mentalist” and (perhaps inevitably) CBS’ upcoming “Elementary” — which goes back to the source — with a touch of “Castle,” in that Pierce is only playing at being a law-enforcer, while Moretti really is.
Having made several episodes available (although set in Chicago, lensing shifted to Los Angeles after the pilot was shot in Toronto), the show does trot out an interesting parade of guest stars, although even that’s slightly problematic, since for those with even modest powers of showbiz perception, the presence of such recognizable performers has a way of telegraphing outcomes.
All told, even with Pierce’s provocative lectures and the probing questions he asks, “Perception” feels like an entry-level course, and isn’t nearly as cerebral as it pretends to be. Or maybe it is, and what’s onscreen is all just an illusion.