“Deception,” a new drama premiering on NBC this week, introduces us to yet another wealthy family full of secrets. This time, the drama begins immediately with a murder. Troubled daughter Vivian Bowers is found dead, leading her former best friend and FBI detective Joanna Locastro (Meagan Good) to go undercover to investigate her death.
Bowers family patriarch Robert (Victor Garber) owns a pharmaceutical company, alongside sons Edward (Tate Donovan) and Julian (Wes Brown). Rounding out the family are Robert’s trophy wife Sophia (Katherine LaNasa) and their daughter Mia (Ella Rae Peck).
There is one major twist within the detective story of “Deception.” Detective Joanna grew up in the Bowers household alongside Vivian, making her even more eager to investigate the family and avenge her friend’s death. Joanna’s mother worked as the Bowers’ maid.
Given the family setup, a beyond the fourth wall conversation of race also echoes throughout the “Deception” premiere. The mother of Good’s character is referred to as the “head of household.” At a recent press outing, producers were intentionally not calling her a maid.
Through such terminology, it seems the producers are couching the racial tensions within the family as opposed to exploring them in full. During her investigations, Good’s character never seems curious about the treatment of her mother while she served the Bowers family. The show’s creator, Liz Heldens, admits this lack of attention to racial issues, claiming the diversity of the cast speaks for itself.
“It is sort of a way to sort of deal with race without actually having to talk about it,” Heldens said at the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour. “But it’s not really something we talk about too much in the writer’s room.”
An odd response, given the ample opportunity within the “Deception” characters to explore the family dynamics from a perspective of race rather than just fish for petty drama. The interesting thing about the black housekeeper/white housewife motif here is that Heldens places it in modern day. “Deception” is removed from the time period of The Help or similar books and films set in the Civil Rights-era. Interestingly, this time the black daughter is uncovering the family’s secrets.
Yet, Heldens is shying away from race question for now, claiming, “The show is about so many things, and it’s so rich.”
Only time will tell as to whether that evasive approach will be enough for “Deception” to last until season’s end.
“Deception” premieres tonight at 10 PM EST on NBC.
Meagan on Today