I’m not sure how much more TV can milk out of the goofy, off-beat, somewhat damaged police consultant that Tony Shalhoub brought back in vogue with Monk. Over the past decade we’ve seen psychics (Psych, The Mentalist), mathematics professors (Numb3rs), a writer (Castle), a thief (White Collar), a biophysicist (The Eleventh Hour), and the return of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock) just to name a few. The latest hour-long drama to cash in on the formula stars Rachael Leigh Cook as a FBI agent who taps a brilliant but schizophrenic professor of neuroscience (Eric McCormack) who often hallucinates people and events to help him work through complex puzzles into help solve her cases.
In “Messenger” Professor Daniel Pierce (McCormack) is blindsided by Dean Haley (LeVar Burton) who throws his an impromptu party for winning this year’s Davenport Prize for Exploration in Science. Thankfully Pierce is saved by the appearance of Kate Moretti (Cook) who needs help on a case of dead member of a cult with a history of drug abuse and extensive religious tattoos on his body. While looking for answers in the cult Pierce and Moretti talk with the couple in charge of the commune (Tim Guinee, Lisa Waltz) as well as a young member (Brett DelBuono) who believes he receives direct messages from God but who Pierce believes may be suffering from a life-threatening brain tumor.
Despite Pierce’s belief the cult is responsible for the victim’s death Moretti’s leading suspect is a pretty crazy former member (Ryan Slater) of the group who threatened vengeance when the victim led the charge to evict him from the commune. However, further investigation into the commune’s financials turns up a crooked IRS Agent (Roger Bart) and the real mastermind behind both fraud and murder (Jaimie Alexander).
In each episode Pierce is haunted and assisted on the case by a specific hallucination that might be one of the suspects, a victim, or, in this case Joan of Arc (Melissa Farman). Of course the reliable hallucinated version of his ex Natalie (Kelly Rowan) makes another appearance here as well. The concept works okay, if you can buy Cook as an agent of the FBI and believe the Bureau would be willing to employ someone with Pierce’s condition (which, to be honest, takes more than a small leap of faith). The talent right now is certainly overshadowing the writing a handful of episodes of the show’s first season, and Perception is closer to the failed Eleventh Hour than something like the far more successful and engaging Monk or Numb3rs. However, the mystery of the week works well enough and, as someone not totally immune to the charms of Cook, I’m willing to give it a few more episodes.