If you were producing a pilot for a new series hoping your show would get picked up for an entire season and beyond, wouldn’t you try not offending half your potential viewers?
On Monday, TNT premiered a new show called Perception that for some stupid reason - in the very first episode! - completely trashed former President George W. Bush as a liar (video follows with transcribed highlights and commentary):
The program’s plotline centers on Dr. Daniel Pierce, a psychologically imbalanced neuroscientist played by Will and Grace’s Eric McCormack who’s enlisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assist in solving some of its most complex cases.
He works closely with Special Agent Kate Moretti, played by Rachael Leigh Cook, a former student who recruited Pierce to work with the Bureau.
During a session with his psychiatrist after a rather disturbing psychological incident, Pierce explained that in his dream, he was told that a witness involved in the murder he’s investigating is lying.
To determine if she is, Pierce brought in an aphasiac to be a human lie detector.
Pierce explained to Moretti, “Jimmy’s an aphasiac. He’s lost the ability to comprehend spoken language. To compensate, many aphasiacs become highly sensitive to subtle inflections in speech. Now when we lie, those vocal nuances become more pronounced. Most of us wouldn’t notice, but aphasiacs do. And for some reason to them, it sounds funny.”
The aphasiac was shown Bush’s State of the Union address when he said, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
Not surprisingly, Jimmy broke out laughing.
Without getting into whether Bush lied or not – many believe he was just echoing the intelligence we had at the time – using this as a test-case for prevarications was preposterous, especially in a television pilot.
The producers certainly could have gone in other directions like for instance former President Clinton saying he never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.
They also could have shown a video of candidate Barack Obama saying that if elected president, he’d immediately close down the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
Smarter still if you’re trying to maximize your audience by remaining apolitical – which you would think would be the goal of a new series trying to get picked up for a full season! – would be to use a neutral subject that wouldn’t offend anyone.
This could be done by taking a famous movie scene where the star was clearly lying.
Classic examples would be “Scarface” when Al Pacino told Florida immigration officials he was a political refuge. Or Pacino again at the end of “The Godfather” telling his wife that he didn’t have his brother-in-law killed.
Such things would have been extremely effective at proving the aphasiac could accurately detect a lie on a video.
But no, the folks involved in this show felt it was necessary to be highly partisan by making a mockery of the nation’s 43rd president.
Hopefully the show will flop and those involved will learn from their mistake.
(HT NB reader Elaine Michaels)