Summer is the time for cable channels to move to the fore with original programming as the broadcast networks fill their schedules with reruns and cheap “reality” shows. And it has become a truism that the major free cable channels are rather more adventurous in their programming than the broadcast networks. This willingness to take chances has led to some very good shows such as Monk, The Closer, Mad Men, Nero Wolfe, and the like.
However, as the cable channels seek to fill their schedules with more and more shows, the ingenuity and originality factors have necessarily suffered in the past couple of years. That appears to be the case with the new TNT crime drama Perception.
By giving it the time slot just after the network’s most widely admired show, The Closer, TNT is clearly placing high expectations on Perception, and viewers can be expected to do likewise. Alas, it appears both may end up disappointed. Having The Closer as a lead-in should give the show some time to develop viewer loyalty. As should be expected, Perception did well in the ratings for its premiere Monday night, drawing 5.6 million viewers (live plus same-day). That’s an 8 percent drop from the 6.1 million people watching The Closer, not a bad first-night audience at all.
What the first-night viewers of Perception saw was what TV producers and distributors typically try to do: create something that’s the same as previously successful shows but just a little different.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with that — it’s what makes shows such as Psych and The Mentalist follow the success of Monk. Here’s how it works in Perception: An eccentric genius neuroscience professor, Dr. Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack), teams up with one of his former students, Chicago-based FBI agent Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook), to solve mysteries. Pierce’s credibility is undermined, however, by his susceptibility to schizophrenic hallucinations. That’s his designated quirk, a necessity for modern-day TV detectives. Pierce, for her part, has a history of testy relationships with her superiors in the FBI.