OK… Go on.
"The neuro-chemical impulses fired when we're dreaming or fantasizing or hallucinating are indistinguishable from the ones banging around inside our skulls when we actually experience those events. So, if what we perceive is often wrong, how can we ever know what's real and what isn't?"
Pretty heavy stuff to open up the next big-hit procedural crime drama, but it's just one of the reasons why TNT's Perception is breathing some new life into a stagnant genre.
Say hello to Dr. Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack), an eccentric neuroscience professor who also happens to be a paranoid-schizophrenic; think John Nash from A Beautiful Mind meets Dr. House. Former star student Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook), an FBI agent, recruits Pierce to help solve difficult cases. While he possesses a brilliant handle on human behavior and the inner workings of the mind, he also walks around with a head full of noise.
Pierce is helped through his daily mental melee by his teaching assistant/nanny Max Lewicki (Arjay Smith), who not only deals with grading papers but also providing his mentor with the proper distractions to keep his mind occupied. Natalie Vincent (Kelly Rowan) is the good doctor's closest friend and trusted confidant. Paul Haley (LeVar Burton) serves as Pierce's friend and boss, serving as dean of the university.
The idea that reality is a figment of the imagination is not only a concept for the pilot episode, it's an allegory that describes Pierce's daily life. He struggles with hallucinations that often manifest in the form of people that aren't really there. Sometimes they are constructs seemingly built by his unconscious mind to aid him in solving a particular case, interpreting things he sees but cannot yet process.
Perception promises to be the hit of the summer. McCormack is impressive as the brilliant expert on the mind who jabbers with an Asperger's-level of social ineptitude. His character invokes a severe pathos with the alienation he suffers from a condition that prevents him from forming meaningful human connections. It's ironically easy to connect and identify with what is, in essence, a rude and arrogant character that refers to his students by archetypes like "hippie guy" or "ironic T-shirt." Cook, while unfortunately best known as the hot art nerd from She's All That, does especially well as the hard-nosed, mousy Fed who you'd gladly let frisk you. As the understanding but challenging Natalie, Rowan makes a great foil for Pierce. Smith makes a great lackey and Burton's character has some memorable moments.
Perception is fun, well-written with clever dialogue and plenty of intrigue. The best part is the lack of the usual House-ian moment of clarity. Chances are you will love it, no matter how you look at things.
Perception air Mondays at 10 p.m., premiering July 9 on TNT.