TV Talk with Breanna #6: Changing Your Perspective with Perception

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On television today, we find that more groups of people are being represented than ever before. However, it’s still relatively difficult to find a show with a main character (or even one in the supporting cast) that has a mental condition. Whether it’s something like an anxiety disorder or a bipolar disorder, mental illnesses aren’t addressed enough on TV. TNT’s Perception, however, does a great job of showing how mental illness does not always have to be viewed in a negative light, and it manages to do so in an entertaining and engaging way.

Perception follows Dr. Daniel Pierce (Eric McCormack), a neuroscientist, professor, and paranoid schizophrenic. While his mind is brilliant, his condition makes him have hallucinations and paranoid delusions which greatly impact his work. Dr. Pierce soon starts to think of his hallucinations as somewhat of a gift when agent Kate Moretti (Rachael Leigh Cook), one of his former students, asks him to consult on a case for the FBI.

Pierce soon realizes that his hallucinations allow him to make connections that his conscious mind can’t yet process, and they begin to help solve cases. This isn’t to say that his schizophrenia doesn’t have a negative impact on him at all, though, as it often causes him to be distant and sometimes irrational. His condition also allows him to see his best friend Natalie Vincent (Kelly Rowan), who may be a figment of his imagination but helps him cope with his illness. Pierce now has to balance the positives and negatives of his illness and try to use it to solve cases, while also making sure it doesn’t get in the way.

With a show such as this, proper writing and acting are very important, and Perception has both. The writers know how to make Pierce relatable while also helping the audience understand his illness and the way it works. McCormack does an amazing job of portraying the character himself — whether it’s showing Pierce’s quirks, such as how he has to listen to classic music when he’s overwhelmed, or how he reacts to his hallucinations, the actor does an excellent job of making Dr. Pierce real, and the show wouldn’t be nearly as effective without his brilliant work.

Perhaps mental illness is often avoided on television because it is a hard topic to breach, especially in the correct way. In the minds of many, shows like Perception take a risk in covering the topic so in-depth because it can be hard to talk about such issues without offending someone. This show, however, certainly came out on top by covering the subject with respect and with a goal of putting it in a more positive light. The show does a great job of portraying the life of someone with mental illness (and it especially succeeds in showing the ups and downs), and it shows that conditions such as Dr. Pierce’s affect more people than many realize. Perception displays that a mental condition doesn’t have to hold someone back, and that those with mental illness can be just as successful as someone without it.

While it may not be an extremely popular show, Perception does an important job of portraying mental illness in a more positive light, which is a concept many people have never considered. If it is able to change even just its viewers’ perspective on mental illness, it’s already made a significant impact on the community. The first season of Perception is available on iTunes, as well as the first half of the second season. Perception returns on February 25th to finish out its second season, and will return in the summer for its third.