Pilot Perception: Deception

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Deception, NBC, Mondays at 10/9c

The Pedigree: The show was created, written, and executive produced by Liz Heldens (Friday Night Lights, Prime Suspect [U.S.]). Peter Horton (Grey’s Anatomy) directed the pilot. Other EPs include Gail Berman (Buffy, Angel, Alphas), Lloyd Braun (The Cape, Alphas), and Gene Stein (The Cape, Alphas).

The Cast & How You Know Them: Deception stars Meagan Good (Californication). Regulars also include Victor Garber (Alias, Argo), Laz Alonso (Breakout Kings), Wes Brown (Hart of Dixie, 90210), Tate Donovan (The O.C., Damages, Argo), Katherine LaNasa (The Campaign, Longmire), and Ella Rae Peck (Young Adult, Gossip Girl).

The Premise: After a socialite dies of a supposed overdose, the FBI sends Detective Joanna Locasto – who happened to be the dead girl’s childhood best friend and the family’s housekeeper’s daughter – in to infiltrate the wealthy family and find out whether her friend was murdered and who in the family might be responsible. And of course, things get even soapier from there.

A Taste:

What Works: Both the mystery and the characters pulled me in right from the beginning; Meagan Good is a strong leading lady, Victor Garber is delightful as always, and Ella Rae Peck was a nice surprise – I think I’ll like her better on this than I did on Gossip Girl. The show seems to know what it is and revel in its own soapiness rather than trying to insist it be taken seriously, which is refreshing. I’m genuinely interested in learning more about the characters, both in relation to the central mystery and to all the other things going on in their lives. And there’s a twist toward the end of the pilot that I loved, even if it wasn’t the most surprising twist ever.

What Doesn’t: As I said, it’s soapy, which is good if you like that sort of thing but bad if you don’t. The soapiness occasionally becomes overwrought and cartoonish. And it seems like the writers are missing a huge opportunity to explore issues of race and class in Joanna’s relationship with the family. I’d hoped that they would integrate more of this later, but it’s not sounding likely.

Our Favorite Line: “Hey, Eddie? Next time you’re lying awake at night wondering why no one likes you? Flash back to this moment.”

You Might Like This if you like Revenge or Veronica Mars – those are the two comparisons I’ve seen most often, and they are apt. More generally, if you like soapy mysteries, this will be right up your alley. Various moments in the pilot also reminded me of Gossip Girl, Scandal, and even Arrow.

If You’re Interested: Deception premieres tonight on NBC at 10/9c.

(Photo courtesy of NBC.)

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