Deception Series Premiere Review: Lighten Up, Deception!

By Tim Surette

Jan 08, 2013

Deception S01E01: "Pilot"

Look, the plentiful comparisons between Revenge and Deception aren't without reason. Both shows follow a strong, independent-type lady who infiltrates a wealthy community she has a past connection to in order to rectify some wrongs. Both shows are trashy primetime soaps bloated with murder, sexy times, and extravagant lifestyles. Both shows get straight to the point with their descriptive titles.

But let's not fool ourselves, both shows are trashy as all heck. The difference is that one of them knows it and the other does not. Revenge's first season (the second season is bleh at best) was all fun and sass and Honey Badger philosophy because it didn't pretend to be anything but an outlet for our passive selves to experience the thrill of ruining someone else's life. The first step toward becoming the thing you want to be is knowing what you are. Tonight's series premiere of Deception tried way too hard and didn't get the note that primetime soaps, especially those that take place in the world of the heinously wealthy, had better embrace their garbage-y smell rather than attempt to dress it up with the pretense of legitimacy. Such a practice may have worked back in the dinosaur ages of television (the 1980s and 1990s), but today's audiences simply do not care about generic rich-people murder mysteries.

In this generic rich-people murder mystery, wildchild Vivian, daughter of pharmaceutical bazillionaires the Bowers family, is found dead after taking one too many goofballs. The case lands on the desk of Detective Joanna Locasto (Meagan Good), because A) she's a sexy, hard-nosed detective, B) she just so happens to be a childhood friend of Vivian because Joanna's mom was "the help" for the Bowers back in the day, and C) Vivian was obviously murdered, hence the television show about it.

The bulk of Deception's opening hour was spent showing us just how truly terrible the show's rich folks are (insults and accusations are passed at the dinner table more often than the low-sodium salt substitute), and making sure you think everyone could have played a role in Vivian's death. Was it Vivian's handsome brother Julian, who may have been trying to kick Vivian out of the family's inheritance? Was it joyless mother-in-law Sophia, who by the end of the episode was 75-percent wine? Was it older brother Edward (Tate Donovan), who likes to have secret whisper arguments in the driveway? Or was it one of countless other suspects who will check in throughout the series' short lifetime? In creating the multiple possibilities that are key to the success of any murder mystery, Deception has succeeded. In making us care about any of them, Deception has failed.

Deception's Joanna has all the makings of someone we want to root for; we get the idea that she's a good person trying to do the right thing. But where's the fun in that? What made Revenge so compelling early on was that its heroine, Emily Thorne, was just as conniving of a bitch as the people she set out to destroy. Emily wasn't just a snoop, she was a threat. That made the show multi-layered. Joanna is just a witness poking around a mansion looking through closets.

The pilot's painfully trite dialogue and sad performances (some of them from actors who've done great work in the past—Tate Donovan, looking at you buddy) didn't help. It was painful to watch the actors struggle to do what they could with the material. When this cast is forced to pretend to like each other, they have all the chemistry of oil and vinegar.

Without any self-aware embracing of the lunacy of the genre, there's zero pizazz to keep things interesting. There were two big reveals in the pilot (Julian has the ring! Mia is Vivian's daughter!) but they landed with the thud of a feather because Deception is as plain as it gets. Ensuing episodes will no doubt do a lot of tail-chasing as evidence against various suspects gurgles up to the surface, but nothing will ever truly be shocking. Deception is boring. Even this review is boring. I apologize. Let's all just move on with our lives.



NOTES

– How about that montage of Julian weeping on the dock? Eek. Ugly stuff right there.

– Let me guess this straight, because I'm not sure I did. The same place (outside behind a small brick in an archway) young Vivian used to hide her weed is the same place older Vivian hid a flash drive with her sex tape on it?

– I do like Katherine LaNasa as Sophia Bowers, the hard-drinking stepmom. That type of character is nothing new, but LaNasa embodies it and works it. She's the only person who seems to be aware that Deception should be purposefully trashy television.

– The paparazzi photographer guy was an interesting addition. And then they killed him.

– How long does this show last? Does NBC let it run out its order and just wait for Revolution to come back, or are we looking at a quick cancellation and repeats of other stuff?

– It's a shame Deception doesn't feel like it has any potential, because it's nice to see a primetime drama with a minority lead.


What'd you think of the premiere?

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  • bleumystique Jan 13, 2013

    It's fantastic seeing a primetime show with a minority lead. So far all we have is Scandal which is fantastic.
    I think Deception has the potential. It was the pilot. Pilots can be rough. The way in which they are revealing things is amateurish at best, however. It's like the practically tell you the answers to everything before the make the "big reveal" just so that when they do make the reveal you'll understand it. They don't need to do that. I really hate when shows underestimate the intelligence of their audience. It 's rather unfortunate. I knew Mia was Vivian's daughter from the first time we seen her. All because they kept emphasizing that she was so much like Vivian and the stepmother was so insistent that she wasn't. By the time the baby photo came into play and the video where Vivian proclaimed she was preganant again...I was already bored. And I knew Julian had the ring, because well didn't the show the whole him backhanding her in the previews or somsething? I also know that Julian didn't kill her sister, that much is obvious.
    -Did they seriously spend a good five minutes of the episode with Laz Alonso and Megan Good talking about rib eye and Costco's? We're better than this.
    - I too loved the paparazzi dude, and then they killed him off. There was a whole story that could have been there.
    -The whole class and race thing made me twitch a few times. I cannot lie. Her mom was the hired help for a rich white family with a plethora of drama. She's staying with the family but only one person (the father) sees her as part of the family, everyone else treats her like she's the daughter of the help. And Julian just wants to get laid.
    - The show has the potential. It reminds me a bit of Revenge for all the obvious reasons. I'm not ready to give it up just yet.

  • TVwanderlust Jan 11, 2013

    So...sue me. But I kind of liked it. The double twist at the end about both Julian and Mia were nice plot points and its nice to see Meagan Good in a role different than her usual romcom stuff.

    I will definitely keep tuning in...and hope that the show will build in both momentum and quality.

  • emmiegirl Jan 09, 2013

    Yeah Tim, welcome back & Happy New Year! Boo that your talents are being diverted to covering this type of programming. I did not tune in but apparently did not miss much.

  • expo359 Jan 08, 2013

    I'm just glad most of the cast are "AmericanS". we all know how odd the casting can get?

  • 84ale84 Jan 08, 2013

    you can see scandal for a a minority lead in a drama, an shonda rimes embraces all her trashyness

  • BiniBeans Jan 08, 2013

    Why even talk about these shows? No reason at all.

  • Montana_Katana Jan 08, 2013

    Reading this just made me feel bad for Tim. Between the "Hey, should I watch" article and now the pilot review. It's almost like the poor guy is being unnecessarily punished for something.

  • blackmage8472 Jan 08, 2013

    Deception is a bit like Twin Peaks... without any of the charm of David Lynch. In other words, bland.

  • Acrobit Jan 08, 2013

    Yeah, so....no. This show is bad. Immediately stupid 30 seconds in, and worse than Revolution started out.

    I guess we could run down the comparisons with other shows since I think we're gonna do that here a lot. It's gonna ramble a bit, but that's really all this show deserves.

    - This isn't really like Revenge, aside from rich white people with minority assistants. Joanna has no personal interest in taking them down outside of her job. Emily shows up with money and power, Joanna shows up pretty much as a charity case. I get that it's undercover; they're both undercover. Joanna's mostly there as a friendly ray of slightly-welcome sunshine to find out what happened to the troubled friend she gave up on long ago. Emily's there to destroy most of the town for personal reasons.

    - It has a similarity to Veronica Mars only because the lead's best friend (of last year or 16 years ago) was possibly murdered. Heh...'possibly.' I loved how Joanna looks at the picture of Mia dead with cuts and bruises all over her body, and only asks about the one on her face two pictures later. Ooh, *that* one's a clue!

    - It has a similarity to Scandal because Joanna and Olivia are both black, cute, outsiders in the big fish world....and kinda tiny. I'd like to say they're both kickass and good at what they do, but Joanna's kinda stupid already. Good sleuthing on the older brother, kicking that flowerpot over. Couldn't they've hired a cat to do that behind her, and spare her a few points of stupid in the first episode? It'd be bad enough if she'd just come out of the academy, and I'm really tired of characters having professions they're too stupid to have been doing for years. Get better or get fired. Nothing she's done in this pilot has shown a week's worth of experience. And ffs, stop tackling everybody on their backs so they can punch you in the face or rip your clothes off. Or at least make it hot somehow.

    - It has a similarity to Revolution and The Cape because it sucks, it's on NBC, and they're gonna say it's a hit right up until they cancel it.

    It's a shame, because I like some of the actors. I've loved Victor Garber since growing up watching Alias. Angel from Dexter isn't bad, and I liked Tate Donovan from Damages.

    Meagan Good's cute, but her character has no chemistry with anyone except maybe Mia's kid, of all people. Sure, it'll be delightful when that snotty little shit grows to love and depend on Joanna in a week or two, but that's not gonna cut it, and I partially blame Good. The writing's cheap and bad, but she doesn't sell that she's interested....in anything.....at all, and she had a few chances. I guess throwing rocks at a guy peeping into a 15-year old's room counts for something.

    And sorry, but that kid in the flashbacks looks absolutely nothing like Joanna. It took two flashbacks before I figured out they were flashbacks. Young Mia or the brother don't look that similar either, honestly. Did they even try? Anyway, +1 for whoever wrote the cocaine comeback at dinner. I lol'd. If they could have a snarky dinner every week, that would actually help a lot.

    Okay, I rambled a lot. I regret nothing.

  • cuccijoffrey Jan 08, 2013

    another "no, thank you" show...

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