All families are complicated, and coming off of the holidays, few would disagree. But few families are quite as complicated as the Bowerses.
The Bowerses are the family of NBC’s drama “Deception,” premiering Monday, Jan. 7. The family has amassed the sort of obscene wealth that usually comes at others’ expense. This features people behaving really badly and expecting to get away with it because they are so rich.
The pilot is crowded as it tries to lay the foundations for many stories, but stick with it. By the second episode, the pace improves, and the characters are more nuanced, and by the third, it becomes compelling.
Set in New York and Connecticut, the show opens with the death of the family’s adult daughter. It was initially considered a drug overdose, but Vivian was clearly beaten. Figuring out who did it sets up the series.
The FBI recruits a police officer, Joanna Locasto (Meagan Good, “Californication”), to go under cover and infiltrate the family. It’s easy for her to do so because she was Vivian’s best friend growing up.
Joanna’s mom, yet to be seen (S. Epatha Merkerson, “Law & Order”) was a maid for the family, and the girls were close until Vivian veered off into substance abuse.
“Joanna is very determined, and she has a moral compass, and she loves hard and has been through a lot and has seen a lot,” Good tells Zap2it. “And at this point in her life what she loves most is justice and pursuing right, and that is why she chose to be a police officer and part of why she is passionate about getting justice for Vivian.”
The Bowerses own a pharmaceutical company, which father Robert (Victor Garber, “Alias”) runs. He’s charming and ruthless. Robert is more concerned about the company’s stock and bringing a cancer-fighting drug to market than he is with family.
Still, Garber manages to infuse him with humanity so he’s not a one-dimensional monster of capitalism. There’s a scene where he watches his son Edward (Tate Donovan, “Damages”) with obvious pride, and when talking with Joanna, Robert becomes more than the monomaniacal CEO.
“I describe him as a loving father with some issues,” Garber says. “His intentions are good, but sometimes he has to be devious to get what he wants.”
Robert’s sons, Julian (Wes Brown, “90210”), a doctor by training and a playboy by practice, and Edward, a lawyer, work for their father. Edward wanted to be a politician, but his aspirations were cut short when he was accused of rape and murder. Though he was never indicted, the accusation follows him. Many suspect that the family money covered up his crime.
Asked to describe his character, Donovan says, “He is extraordinarily, shockingly handsome. For me, he is an intriguing character because he has this sort of terrible event in his past. He was accused of raping and murdering a girl, and the whole world thinks he’s guilty. It’s like when you call a kid bad, and he becomes bad. He does not care if people like him, which I really enjoy playing because I am just the opposite.”
Even Donovan, who is directing some of the episodes, hasn’t a clue if Edward’s past is felonious.
“The beautiful thing about playing this role is I don’t know,” Donovan says. “It sort of switches. It is sort of wonderful to have that gnawing at you — to have that not knowing.”
His home life is rocky, and Edward’s wife, Samantha (Marin Hinkle, “Two and a Half Men”), wants to move their daughters to California and have them grow up in a less privileged environment. But Robert and Edward don’t want them to move, so Robert asks his wife, Sofia (Katherine LaNasa, “Big Love”), to talk with her daughter-in-law.
Sofia is delicious fun, in that nasty ultra-queen-bee way. Trying to school her granddaughter on eating foie gras, Sofia says, “Very little value in the world happens because an angel kisses a unicorn. Get used to that, young lady.”
Sofia and Edward are suspicious of Joanna and why Robert takes her in so easily. But Sofia is a second wife and did not know Joanna growing up. Edward is suspicious by nature. Complicating matters — as if that needed to be done — the other son, Julian, and Joanna were lovers when they were teens.
The youngest Bowers daughter, Mia (Ellie Rae Peck), in her angry teen years, has too much money and not enough sense. It’s clear early on that Mia is different.
In fact, though the show initially could seem like another melodrama about lifestyles of the rich and infamous, it, too, is unusual.
“It is so different,” Good says. “All of the elements of this show and all of the different characters and storylines. You get your procedural fix. You get your drama fix. You get your love triangle fix. You get your family drama fix. You get it all.”