THE SERIES “Deception”
WHEN | WHERE Premieres Sunday at 10:01 p.m. on ABC/7
WHAT IT’S ABOUT Cameron Black (Jack Cutmore-Scott) is one of those famous Las Vegas magicians who can also command a national TV audience, and does. Then, something goes wrong in his perfect career: His twin brother, Jonathan (also Cutmore-Scott), a partner in his act, is implicated in a murder, which Cam figures to be a setup. But why? And by whom?
Meanwhile, he witnesses a dramatic explosion on TV and instantly realizes the whole thing was staged. He heads over to the New York FBI office, to explain his theory and offers to help agents Kay Daniels (Ilfenesh Hadera, “Billions”) and Mike Alvarez (Amaury Nolasco, “Prison Break”). They’re skeptical, while Cam’s support team back in Vegas — Gunter (Vinnie Jones), Dina (Lenora Crichlow) and Jordan (Justin Chon) — are furious. After all, they need to put on a show, and the star is AWOL.
MY SAY Most commercial network dramas these days are what’s called “high concept,” which does not mean producers get high before writing them — often with evidence to the contrary — but that they’re based on one irreducibly simple idea. As a perfect example, “Deception” can be fully explained in just four words: Magician joins the FBI.
Beautiful. That’s the whole show. But of course it’s not, and that’s the problem high concepts usually run into. They still need dialogue, plot, characters, while the higher the concept, the tougher the balancing act. So what’s the sleight of hand and potential lifeline here? That’s easy too. This show is ridiculous and knows it’s ridiculous. That extenuating self-awareness gives “Deception” both cover and license to do whatever it wants (and it does). Unbound by logic, untethered to the real world, unconcerned by the nattering nabobs of the critical trade lying in wait, “Deception” merrily rolls along like a Looney Tunes short on acid. It’s a broad wink to an audience that knows it’s getting bamboozled and, after a while, fully expects to get bamboozled. There’s almost something meta about this form of nonsense, as if it’s a larger commentary on television itself (and it may well be).
“Deception” is also in particularly capable hands. Created by Chris Fedak, who was behind one of the higher concepts in recent years — box store employee becomes superspy (“Chuck”) — it’s also produced by Greg Berlanti, who put the “high” in high concept. Berlanti (“Arrow,” “Supergirl”) is a comic book specialist, too, so that helps to explain the pervasive (and antic) comic book sensibility in “Deception.” (David Nutter of “Game of Thrones” directed Sunday’s opener.)
That’s part of the fun here, or maybe all of the fun. As Cameron says at the outset, “There are two kinds of deception. First, where I trick you, and then the other kind — where you trick yourself. We all bend reality to whatever we want and need it to be, or simply to have it all make sense even when it doesn’t.”
In other words, caveat emptor.
BOTTOM LINE Platinum-plated nonsense — but also self-aware enough to know just how nonsensical. “Deception” is mostly just a lot of fun.