Deception Series Premiere Review: Lighten Up, Deception!

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?

Comments (36)
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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.
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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.

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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.
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I'm just glad most of the cast are "AmericanS". we all know how odd the casting can get?
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you can see scandal for a a minority lead in a drama, an shonda rimes embraces all her trashyness
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Why even talk about these shows? No reason at all.
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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.
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Deception is a bit like Twin Peaks... without any of the charm of David Lynch. In other words, bland.
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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.
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another "no, thank you" show...
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Well, I am giving it a three episode chance because if I am not downright offended or hateful of a show in a pilot, well, I will give it a chance to work out some of its kinks. Especially on NBC which seems to have just realized that Community is kind of a satire type show not some quirky group of people who are trying to get their degrees. I don't think I actually care about the actual mystery, which is kind of disappointing (I theorize right now that if it is just filler for Revolution, Julian did it, if not, well there is some macguffin we haven't met yet). But like, even as hard ass as Emily was on Revenge, you got glimpses of the child and man who were destroyed and you kind of felt for what happened to David Clarke and there was this undercurrent of sadness about Emily. This is kind of feeling like a Lifetime movie. It actually kept my interest for quite a bit until I found myself actually playing with my phone.
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I personally feel that the Revenge comparison is going to be the thing that kills this show, not the writing and acting. You can even tell from the review that it's really not about what the show has to offer, but how it compares in relation to a show of a similar topic.

I kind of wonder how people who haven't watched Revenge would see this show? Would it still feel like a big failure?

When compared to other hour-long primetime shows on its network the show stays true to form. Not many NBC shows really poke fun at themselves or try not to take themselves too seriously.
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Elementary is doing pretty well, even though it can never reach the absolutely brilliant BBC Sherlock. Revenge is a solid soap, Deception is just meh.
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love Elementary but hate the BBC Sherlock
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With all that being said. Still think the show sucks.
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I never really felt like they were talking themselves too seriously. Particularly the dinner scene felt like they new what a trashy soap they are. What show uses the line "I don't lie awake at night because I don't do cocaine" and takes that seriously?
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I have yet to see a show, used that line?
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Yuck.
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They could call the detectives from Law & Order to investigate. They'd arrest a suspect in half an hour, and in one hour we'd know the guilty one.
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I didn't mind it so much when I first saw it, but on repeat viewing it got on my nerves. Hopefully the next couple of episodes will get better.
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I already watched the premiere online and enjoyed it. I'm not usually into primetime soaps, or soaps of any kind for that matter, but because of Meagan Good, I decided to give it a try. I can't compare it to Revenge or Veronica Mars since I don't watch either of them, so I'll stick with it for a little while, but not sure for how long LOL!!
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Apparently, I'm easy - BUT - not that easy. As a fan of Revenge, I hated Deception. It's easy to care about Victoria Grayson and Emily Thorne but not these folks. As a counterfeit Revenge it wasn't even close. I don't care about any of this and it will soon follow The Mob Doctor into oblivion. Hell, bring back Revolution, it's way better than this turkey...
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Isn't Revolution still on the air?
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it's on a mid season break till March and although I didn't watch the premiere of Deception, hearing that it is worst than Revolution is pretty bad. Doubt I will watch it after this review.
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Have we all forgotten about Kerry Washington on Scandal?
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No, we like those guys too...
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Spot on review. Compared to Revenge it felt very slow and boring. In Revenge Emily was driving the action from the beginning, in Deception no one really is. The characters all feel like none of them wants to be there, none of them really belongs there and everyone is just staged to be a suspect. The show just looks like a very long trivial murder mystery and we all know that none of the early suspects will be the murder in the end anyway. Which makes it even more boring to sit through it.
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Is it just me, or this is like a copy of revenge?? I´m not saying that is bad though.
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Why not, it is bad...
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So far it's pretty good if you overlook the Revenge comparisons. The people who really hate it seem to be the people saying in their head "well in Revenge this happened, and that happened and that's kind of like Revenge." If you watch it for what it is, it's a pretty good guilty pleasure. It's definitely the result of NBC saying "bring me something that's like Revenge" but it's different enough that I don't get lost in the comparisons. Emily Thorne and Joanna Locasto are two entirely different characters and I feel like the mystery/investigation angle will give the series a different structure.
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I think that we have to give it some time, this was just the first ep. hope it gets better though, ´cuz for me, it wasn´t bad, but it wasn´t good either, so... we´ll see :)
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It's a bad version of Revenge. It's sad because I really like Meghan Good and their aren't enough strong black female leads on the Tele.
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Reminded me of Veronica Mars, if anything, I really don't know why. My mind tends to wander. But anyways I will give this show a couple more episodes because. I didn't think it was as awful as you reviewed it though.
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I also got the Veronica Mars reference as soon as I saw the first scenes. I don't get why people keep comparing this to Revenge since they're 2 different shows. It's like lazy journalism: you just check the list of the on-air shows and you try to find similarities. Maybe Veronica Mars had too much teen-angst for our professional critics to even think about it.
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Veronica Mars was an intelligent and very good show. That's why this was compared to Revenge rather than Veronica Mars.
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So far it is predictable. I'll give it a few more episodes though.
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