Preview: Deception (NBC) 1×1

Don't be deceived into watching

Deception on NBC

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC. Starts January 7 2013

With NBC doing so well in the ratings right now, it’s tempting to forget that it essentially churns out derivative rubbish. It even rips itself off with Go On, which is an imitation – albeit a not bad one – of Community.

As if to prove a point, here comes Deception, a show that practically screams, “We wish we’d thought of that, ABC!” Combining two of ABC’s stand-out shows of last year – Scandal and RevengeDeception is a relentlessly monotonous show of ridiculous proportions. Marrying Revenge‘s “crime, East Coast rich people and the poor outsider woman” soap opera with Scandal‘s mystery/thriller and black female lead (when only one network show has a black female lead, you know something’s wrong with the entire industry), Deception sees an FBI officer go undercover to solve the mystery of her former rich girl best friend’s apparent drug overdose. Except it’s really murder – as if you couldn’t see that coming.

Okay, might be good, you might think, except being NBC, it’s the blandest, dullest possible combination of those two shows, offering neither excitement nor vicarious thrills to get you through the fact that despite a decent cast that includes Victor Garber and Tate Donovan, there is absolutely nothing remarkable about the plot, the dialogue, the characters or their relationships. Even the tag line “To find the truth, she’ll become a lie” is boring.

Here’s a trailer. Stay awake if you can.

When wealthy socialite and notorious party girl Vivian Bowers is found dead of an overdose, no one is really surprised. The heiress to the Bowers pharmaceutical empire has been tabloid fodder for years: wild, pretty, privileged… and now dead at the age of 32. But for FBI agent Will Moreno (Laz Alonso, “Avatar”), things don’t add up with this suspicious dynasty. Convinced the troubled girl’s death was a homicide, he has a clever plan to get to the truth. Her name is Detective Joanna Locasto (Meagan Good, “Think Like a Man”). Twenty years ago she was Vivian’s best friend and practically grew up inside the Bowers’ home. And when she appears at Vivian’s funeral, the family re-embraces her and no one is the wiser. Joanna quickly begins to uncover dark secrets and clues about why Vivian’s life was very much in danger. At the same time, she rekindles an old romantic relationship and rediscovers the allure of the luxurious lifestyle she once knew. She’s about to see once again just how the other half lives… and dies.

Also starring are Victor Garber (“Alias”), Tate Donovan (“Damages”), Katherine LaNasa (“Alfie”) and Ella Rae Peck (“Gossip Girl”). “Deception” comes from executive producer/writer Liz Heldens (“Friday Night Lights”) and director Peter Horton (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Dirty Sexy Money”). The series is from Universal Television and BermanBraun.

Is it any good?
It tries hard to be good. And that’s it’s problem. It’s the wallflower at the debauched party that is Revenge, wanting to do all those bad things yet never having the courage to go there.

So it tries hard to do The Killing thing of showing how everyone’s affected by rich girl Vivian Bowers’ death. And, to be fair, the cast is very good at this, particularly reliable old Victor Garber.

And while that’s all very nice, it’s hard to do that kind of deep human drama when your show is premised on “FBI daughter of a former servant has to convince her former employers to let her live with them so she can investigate them, just after their daughter’s died”. It’s ridiculous. Even the characters know it’s ridiculous.

But rather than luxuriate in that ridiculousness, the show wears its NBC hairshirt and gives us restrained scene after scene of dull cliche, almost complete lack of incident, attempts at love triangles that have the thrill of completing an online customer survey and a plot that lacks so much surprise and intrigue, despite 1,001 red herrings and motivations hurled at you per second, you might as well as have the Cliff Notes that explain it all already.

Did anyone see it coming that the miracle drug produced by Garber’s pharmaceuticals company might not be so miraculous? Of course you did, from the very first moment you saw it arrive on screen.

The show is at least to be praised for having one just one but two black leads, and indeed to have a female protagonist as well – one who gets to have two boyfriends, too. It’s just a shame neither have more personality than the average shop window mannequin, which doesn’t help when you have not just Victor Garber but Tate Donovan (Damages et al) to compete with. But at least NBC is trying.

Unfortunately, it’s just such a boring show that if you care even for a second about the protagonists, the plot, who really killed Vivian Bowers et al, I’m going to assume it’s because you accidentally took some LSD and hallucinated an actual plot development worth paying attention to.

It lacks intelligence, emotion, thrills and drive: ignore it – it’ll be gone in about five weeks.


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.