- - Sunday, July 8, 2012

Eric McCormack is bracing himself.

He’s starring in “Perception,” a new TNT drama he’s very proud of. On the series, which premieres at 10 p.m. Monday, he plays a character he loves.

Still, he’s waiting for the storm.

“I’ve known from the beginning that we’re going to have to go through a trial by fire,” he said in an Associated Press interview. “We just are.”

On “Perception” he portrays Dr. Daniel Pierce, a brilliant neuroscience professor with paranoid schizophrenia who is recruited by the FBI for a side job: to help solve cases that call for expertise in human behavior and the workings of the mind.

Rachael Leigh Cook co-stars as FBI agent Kate Moretti, who, a failed marriage ago, had a crush on Pierce as a student in his classes. Were he not so challenged by intimacy issues, Pierce might now be game to reciprocate her feelings.

Never mind. Their priority is joining forces to solve crimes. And they do, even as Pierce wrestles with his complicated condition, which afflicts him with hallucinations, paranoid delusions and a need to keep strict order.

Pierce is a genius,” Mr. McCormack said, “and he’s got all the bravado and arrogance that comes with it: ‘If there’s anyone who can fix a brain, it’s me.’

“The mysteries are the most delicious thing for him, and yet they stir him up, to his detriment. Every new case will be harder and harder on his psyche, causing his condition to get worse. That makes a great push-me, pull-me for the show.”

When he first read the script, the 49-year-old Mr. McCormack recalled, “I knew right away what I could do with this character. I knew the fun we could have. I also knew what people are gonna say: ‘McCormack does “Monk.” McCormack does “House.” McCormack does “Castle.” ‘ “

A little sigh.

“None of those guys are schizophrenic. None are lecturers at a university. He’s not a [practicing] physician and he’s not a detective.” Mr. McCormack laughs. “Am I nitpicking. Or are they nitpicking?”

The truth is, at the time of this interview a few weeks ago, no one is nitpicking. Yet. But Mr. McCormack is prepared for it to start.

In part, that’s because of his experience with “Trust Me,” his follow-up series to the 1998-2006 sitcom hit “Will & Grace.”

A one-hour comedy-drama that aired for a season on TNT in 2009, “Trust Me” paired Mr. McCormack and Tom Cavanagh as ad men at a current-day agency.

“I was absolutely baffled by the critics when they said, ‘We already have an advertising show. You’re riding on the coattails of “Mad Men.” ‘ “

Of course, some shows decisively break from the pack. Like “Will & Grace,” for instance, built around its saucy pair of BFFs: a handsome gay man and a beautiful straight woman cohabiting in Manhattan.

Though it ended its eight-season network run six years ago, the show was thrust back in the news just a few weeks ago.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s “Meet the Press” declaration that he is “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage nudged President Obama to endorse gay marriage days later. Mr. Obama credited “Will & Grace” with doing “more to educate the public than almost anything anybody’s done so far.”

Mr. McCormack said the “Will & Grace” team never meant to make a big deal of the message it put out.

“We never wanted to be a show that said, ‘Oh, and we’re making a difference,’ ” he insisted. “Taking credit for that seemed the best way to kill the comedy in the show.

“But it’s nice, years after the fact, to hold up our heads and say, ‘It was funny and timely and even daring.’ And if we made the road easier for a series like ‘Modern Family,’ I’m glad, ‘cause it’s a brilliant show.”

In the meantime, Mr. McCormack is looking forward to “Perception,” which, he believes, will rise or fall on its characters (“Do you want to be with them every week?”), not its premise.

As for the premise, whatever it is or might have been - cops or doctors or six friends sitting around an apartment being funny - “there’s always going to be comparisons,” Mr. McCormack said.

Big Ang of ‘Mob Wives’ to release book in September

Big Ang was the breakout star of VH1’s “Mob Wives,” and now the fan favorite is building her brand: She’s writing a book.

Big Ang said Friday that her first book will be released on Sept. 11 through Simon & Schuster. It’s called “Bigger Is Better: Real Life Wisdom from the No-Drama Mama.” She said it will include “all kinds of stuff.”

Big Ang’s real name is Angela Raiola. She first gained attention on the second season of “Mob Wives” as the friendly one and peacemaker when the girls got into fights.

VH1’s website says she’s the niece of Salvatore “Sally Dogs” Lombardi, a deceased captain of the Genovese crime family.

“I didn’t think about any of this. This all came to me,” she said of her recent fame. “Did you think at my age I was looking to go on TV?”

Big Ang also said she’s scouting locations for a store called Big Ang’s Secrets, which will include “spray tans, eyelash extensions, hair extensions. Everything I love.”

The reality star is widely known for her look, mainly her full lips and breasts. She said she’s interested in more plastic surgery.

“I’d like to have the face [lifted] a little bit. When I think I need it,” she said.

“I’m not really addicted,” added Big Ang, saying she’s gotten surgery in 10-year spans. “But I like it. I like whatever makes you look better and younger. They say ‘grow old gracefully.’ I don’t think so. I’ll do whatever it takes to stay young.”

HBO scraps plans for film on Fox News Channel

HBO is dropping its plans to make a film on Roger Ailes and the rise of Fox News Channel.

The network had optioned film rights to work by media writer Gabriel Sherman, who is writing a book on Fox News. But HBO said Thursday that it’s not going forward with those plans, saying it wouldn’t be appropriate considering the network’s ties to Fox competitor CNN. Both HBO and CNN are owned by Time Warner.

Until a report on the website Deadline Hollywood on Thursday, it wasn’t even common knowledge that HBO was working on a Fox film. HBO spokesman Jeff Cusson said little work had been done so far.

• Compiled from Web and wire reports