We’ll get to the schizophrenic crime-solving in a minute.
But first, TNT’s new drama, “Perception,” introduces Kate Moretti, an FBI agent with the cherubic features of a teenager.
You’d think the respect-starved Agent Moretti would want to look older, but she doesn’t even pull her cheerleader hair into a ponytail before tackling a suspect from a second-floor fire escape.
Moretti (Rachel Leigh Cook) needs help with her cases, more than pep talks from her folksy, blue-collar dad can provide. She pulls on her red trench coat, which might as well come with its own fairy-tale wolf, and finds her former neuroscience professor.
The eccentric hero of “Perception,” Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack), is pretty busy these days, tearing through piles of crosswords in the quad. But he goes back to consulting because Moretti is so spunky, he can’t say no. Plus, serial killers are more interesting than sudoku.
He’s good at it, too — you can tell because letters and symbols start rearranging themselves in the air in front of his eyes.
“Perception” takes the latest gifted oddball allowed past the yellow tape — most recently Poppy Montgomery on CBS’ “Unforgettable” — and ups the ante. Pierce has symptoms of schizophrenia, but he won’t treat them with medicine. He loses focus when he takes pills, and besides, he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t believe in pharmaceuticals. Or cellphones. Or laundry.
“Perception” doesn’t joke about Pierce: Schizophrenia is too serious to make light of. USA got some laughs with its scared-of-milk consultant on “Monk,” but his compulsions and phobias were less severe.
“Perception” doesn’t joke about much of anything, not even when Cook has to earnestly explain why her freelancer is vandalizing the walls with a marker.
“Did you notice all this before?” she asks him as he breaks down his epiphany about a series of photographs.
“Yes, I just didn’t notice that I was noticing,” he says, neatly summing up the show’s structure. But it’s not all “Good Will Hunting” meets “The Mentalist” — Pierce hallucinates people who help him see patterns.
Unfortunately, his mind creates a serious of obfuscating, surreal twerps who bicycle backward into elevators instead of just saying, “Yo, that guy is lying.” As Pierce argues with the air beside him, the requisite skeptical fed, Agent Probert (Jonathan Scarfe) does some summing up of his own: “So much for your nut job expert.”
He’s got a point: Besides “Monk,” “Psych,” “The Mentalist,” “Unforgettable” and a slew of other super-observant sleuths have already walked this path, and the shows that work offer compelling mysteries and relationships that make sense.
It’s not enough to throw a disease up on the screen and hope the rest falls into place with the floating equations.