The question with Deception (NBC, Monday at 10 ET/PT; ** out of four) is, how easily are you deceived?
Can you be fooled by a mystery so implausible and so desperately reliant on obvious red herrings, it makes The Killing look like Chinatown? Are you willing to wait for a solution to the show's season-setting murder, even though the characters give you no particular reason to care whether the murderer is ever caught? Can you be lulled into starting that continuing story when little in the first few episodes would lead you to believe the show will run long enough to give you answers?
On the other hand, while the show makes almost no sense, it is pretty to look at. And it does have a few good actors in its mix, even if they're not particularly well served by the scripts. It that's enough incentive to watch, then welcome to TV's latest salute to the sins and suffering of the dirty, rotten rich: Deception.
As the title indicates, everyone has something to hide in Deception, starting with Joanna (Meagan Good), a game if not exactly quick-on-the-uptake San Francisco cop who grew up as the best friend of wealthy tabloid cover-girl Vivian Bowers.
When Vivian dies of a drug overdose, Joanna's former partner, FBI Agent Will Moreno (Laz Alonso), convinces her to go undercover in the Bowers household - even though he has no proof that a crime was committed, let alone any proof that her family might be suspects. When Joanna quite sensibly asks, "Why would I do this?," the answer she gets from Moreno is, " 'Cause it's me asking you," which she accepts as good enough, but you may not.
Will, of course, is on to something: Vivian was murdered, and her father (Victor Garber), her stepmother (Katherine LaNasa) and her two brothers (Tate Donovan and Wes Brown), are the most obvious suspects for that and, it seems, other crimes. Which makes Deception NBC's late-to-the-game version of ABC's Revenge, with a cop seeking justice for her friend substituting for a daughter seeking vengeance for her father.
Murder mysteries, of course, have long been entertainment staples. The problem for Deception is that whatever small measure of interest it manages to build for that main story is quickly dissipated by the writers' clumsy weekly efforts to delay a solution. Whenever folks announce they have something important to tell, and yes, they're that obvious, we know something will stop them from telling. It's hard to maintain the veil of mystery when the writing is this transparent.
We're ready and willing to be deceived. We just expect you to work harder and better than this.