How would Will have turned out if he never met Grace? If the series premiere of Perception is any indication, not great. Will & Grace star Eric McCormack headlines TNT’s new crime drama as a college professor and neuroscientist with a penchant for accusing students of wanting to sleep with him, “air conducting” to headsets of classical music (cassette tapes only) in broad daylight, and seeing people who aren’t actually there — he’s schizophrenic. But, in TV’s true fashion of romanticizing psychological imbalance, he’s also a charming genius.
The series opens with Daniel Pierce (McCormack) being approached by a former student with a special place in his heart: Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook), a recently demoted FBI agent who has returned to Chicago, and is now calling on her old teacher to once again aid in the investigation of a crime. Pierce’s expertise proves useful in cases involving mentally unbalanced individuals: in this situation, the woman accused of murdering her husband appears to be delusional, as is presumed by Moretti — and later confirmed by Pierce — to be innocent. As we can see almost immediately, he’s one hell of a detective in his own right.
But he’s also sick. Pierce struggles with discerning reality from hallucinations in this episode — a new figment of his imagination comes forth, likely provoked by the anxiety of having his cherished Moretti back in his life. Pierce is afraid that she’ll see him at his worst; thus, his worst is conjured.
This premise of “crazy guy solving crimes” is hardly a unique one. Many a detective series, from more recent entries like Monk and NUMB3RS, dating back past Columbo and all the way to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels — remember, Doyle wrote him to be a coke head — has employed this idea. So what separates Perception from the lot?
The most obvious thing the show has going for it is casting. Star McCormack is a terrific showman who hasn’t really had much of a chance to exemplify his talent since his NBC comedy went off the air. Cook, too, will stir up some turn-of-the-century nostalgia — it’s good to see her around again. And best of all: Arjay Smith, the titular hero on Nickelodeon’s The Journey of Allen Strange, plays Pierce’s live-in teaching assistant and sole trusted friend Lewicki — the only person who can both put up with Pierce and help him come to recognize the difference between reality and his own hallucinations.
But Perception needs more than late ‘90s nostalgia to sustain interest and quality. Therein lies the show’s strongest quality: its lead character. Yes, he’s a bit ham-fisted, and a stylized-for-television depiction of a human’s struggle with schizophrenia. But he’s interesting, and well delivered by McCormack. While some of the scenes consisting mainly of crime procedural devices plod on without offering much fun, the parts of the episode dedicated to really inspecting McCormack’s torment and mindset are quite engrossing. His character is sad and painful, funny and charming. Plus, his best friend is Allen Strange, so… there’s that again.
Unfortunately, Perception will likely keep McCormack’s development a second priority to weekly crimes. Such is the nature of this type of program. As such, the series might not have much in it worth watching for anyone uninterested in the genre specifically. But if a happy medium can be discovered, wherein McCormack’s character is allowed to shine beyond the confines of helping She’s All That figure out if the guy who thinks Satan lives in his dishwasher actually murdered his landlord or not, then it might be a show worth sticking to.
[Photo Credit: TNT]
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In the teensy-weensy town of Passaic New Jersey there exists a dying breed: a video-rental store--as in VHS not DVD. Just across the street from said store exists a power plant. And in between the store and power plant exists a doofus named Jerry (Jack Black). Yeah it’s a disaster waiting to happen (at least in writer-director Michel Gondry’s kooky mind). One night when Jerry sets out to sabotage the power plant whose microwaves he swears are killing him that disaster happens. He winds up getting zapped and even worse erasing the contents of every single tape at the nearby rental store Be Kind Rewind. It was already at risk of being demolished in favor of an aesthetic upgrade to the building but this turn of events would seem to be the nail in its coffin. And when a faithful customer (Mia Farrow) threatens to tell Be Kind Rewind’s owner (Danny Glover) unless Ghostbusters is in stock by the end of the day Jerry and his friend Mike (Mos Def) the store’s loyal employee must think and act quickly. And so they do recreating Ghostbusters and every other movie that is requested for rental. Unwitting customers are none the wiser and before long their store-made movies become a hit in the neighborhood and possibly a source of sufficient enough funds to save Be Kind Rewind from demolition. That is until Hollywood comes knockin’. Jack Black continues to expand his comedic horizons with Be Kind proving that virtually any role calling for funny has his name written on it. This isn’t his prototypical flaunt-your-paunch scream-like-a-maniac role and as a result Black’s versatility within the realm has never been so apparent. He gives the well-meaning dimwit several layers--vulnerability imagination pitifulness ambition--but maintains the recognizable energy for which we all know and love him for. Rapper-turned-actor Mos Def however is rather bland in playing straight-man to Black’s klutz. It’s occasionally a nice disparate dynamic between the two actors but Mos much like some of his past movies (16 Blocks The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) just doesn’t seem suited for the style at play. Glover meanwhile is suited for Be Kind lending stability to the quasi-fairytale as an old-school sage. Then there’s Farrow who only further tarnishes her once legendary status with another laughable role choice and performance. Of course it’s hard to ever look at Farrow the same way following her role in last year’s worst movie The Ex. In a somewhat disappointing turn of events Michel Gondry’s (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind The Science of Sleep) screenplay for Be Kind Rewind just doesn’t make the grade. It goes from a silly conceit in the beginning to a way-too-feel-good ending using filmmaking as a sappy uniting-the-people cure-all to get from point A to B. And oddly enough the movie often resembles a traditional slapstick-y comedy. Luckily Gondry the director comes to the rescue. Chief among his accomplishments here are the meta moments the film-within-a-film sequences. The scenes are truly enlightening and elevate Be Kind a great deal. In fact a movie full of such scenes would make a great next project for Gondry--and maybe would’ve made a better project out of Be Kind. The sequences which thriftily remake mainstream classics like Ghostbusters Driving Miss Daisy and Robocop--the only kind of movies that would exist in a VHS-rental store--offer a glimpse into Gondry’s fantasy mind where the creativity wheels are always spinning and the camera is always rolling. Some of the remakes are featured in Be Kind’s trailer and it’s unfortunately one of those cases where the trailer shows the movie’s best parts. But it’s still worth seeing and his fans will likely not suffer such a letdown.