Perception Review: Series 1, Episode 1
Neurology fans rejoice! Following the return of ITV1’s neurosurgeon drama Monroe on Monday, US drama series Perception premiered last night on Watch. The similarities are minimal though. Whereas Monroe is a medical drama set in a British hospital, Perception is a crime drama featuring Eric McCormack as neuropsychiatrist Dr Daniel Pierce, an eccentric neuroscience expert who assists the FBI on some of their most complex cases, using unorthodox methods to get results. If it already sounds similar to every detective series from the last ten years, that’s because it is.
It’s hard to take crime dramas seriously in the aftermath of Charlie Brooker’s excellent spoof police procedural A Touch of Cloth, and Perception does little to subvert the genre. The familiar tropes are all here: the fractured lead that’s smarter than everyone else; entire scenes that function purely so the protagonist can describe what the hell’s going on to the viewer; and the central character’s de rigueur mental health disorder. Dr Daniel Pierce is a paranoid schizophrenic, which trumps Sherlock’s Asperger’s, IMHO.
McCormack is captivating enough as Pierce, who’s paranoid schizophrenia drives his interest in neuroscience. A glass half-full kinda guy, Pierce considers some of his hallucinations a gift, allowing him to make connections that his conscious mind can’t process. The flipside to this is that he struggles to maintain close friendships and intimate relationships. The hallucinations lead him to behave irrationally and dangerously: he has a habit of starting conversations with imaginary people and still uses a cassette Walkman.
Yet remarkably, Pierce is able to maintain a perfectly trimmed stubbly beard from scene to scene.
McCormack aside, the acting’s quite hammed up, and the supporting characters are rather cloying and openly receptive to the idiosyncratic Pierce’s impulsiveness when he should surely be questioned over his dubious behaviour.
Perception takes a sledgehammer to the general “show don’t tell” rule of scriptwriting, eschewing all nuance as Pierce candidly spoonfeeds the audience details of his inner turmoil: “Look at me. I hear voices. I see things that aren’t there. I talk to the walls. How am I ever meant to have an intimate connection with anybody?” Most of the lines exist purely to explain away the plot. If Perception’s writers cut back on exposition there might be more action to engage the viewer. It’s all very tedious.