The Mentalist

07 Apr


A good TV procedural is hard to come by. The mental equivalent of a good bowl of chicken soup, it doesn’t have to be especially clever or well-written and you’re okay if the performances are not all that noteworthy or the plots are hackeneyed… you’d almost prefer it, in fact. Don’t get me wrong: cleverness is always welcome, but there are days when all you want is to come home to undemanding entertainment.

Good guy finds bad guy after chasing a couple of bad leads. All done and over with in a little over 40 minutes plus commercials. Fini.

Sometimes, as in the case of the original CSI, you get hooked because you’re seduced by the innovative packaging and then settle in as the old wine begins to take effect. At others, as in the case of Bones, you stay for the chemistry. It’s tempting to think of an alternate world where every procedural would be The Wire or (going further back in time) Homicide: Life on the Street, but there are nights when all you want is to kick off your heels and watch some good ol’ L&O: SVU or check out what Horatio’s shades have been up to on CSI: Miami.

The Mentalist, which airs Tuesdays at 9 on CBS, is a worthy addition to this line-up.

Simon Baker, who frequently makes me forget that blondes aren’t really my thing, plays the mentalist in question – Patrick Jane, an ex-phony psychic whose smug cleverness cost him his family when a serial killer named Red John took serious exception to the self-aggrandizing lies he told on TV about tapping into the “true demonic evil” emanating from the infamous killer. Now a consultant with the California Bureau of Investigation, he uses the skills he honed in his previous incarnation as a conman for the greater good: solving crime.

The series opens with Jane walking coolly into the home of a murdered teenager and convincing her mother to share with him her inner-most fear, so terrible, she doesn’t even want to say it out loud: that her husband was a child-molester who killed their daughter. It doesn’t end well.

bakerIn those few minutes we find out:

  • Jane has his own method.
  • Jane is very charming. And very good-looking. And very disarming. And lord, but he can wear the hell out of a three-piece suit.
  • Jane is very good at what he does.
  • Jane’s methods may work, but they don’t always work the way you hope they will.
  • Jane’s co-workers i.e. the cops aren’t all that thrilled with him.

Perfect. All the things that make a classic procedural. As an added bonus, you have the satisfaction of arriving at the same conclusion as he did (you’d have to be majorly clueless not to) at right about the same time as him, without knowing the extra bits of information he apparently picked up from the photos tacked on to the fridge door and this leaves you with just the right amount of intrigue.

How did he know that? you wonder and ignore the fact that you deduced the same thing without knowing all the cool things he found out. He might be on the side of law and order right now, but he still operates on the parlor trick principle: distract the dope’s attention.

This quirk that runs throughout the show i.e. Jane showing off in various ways which really lead to nothing important, runs a high risk of turning annoying. Fortunately for The Mentalist, however, it has the same thing going for it as yet another favorite procedural, House M.D. : an irresistible lead actor.

Even though the two shows have little in common other than the predilection of the lead characters to swoop in five minutes before the end of the show and solve the puzzle (except, again, in the case of House, I really don’t know what the answer is – other than that it’s not lupus because it’s never lupus!), their lead actors are charismatic enough to carry it off. And while you’d think Baker has an easier job of it, as the series has progressed this season, it’s clear that Jane is not as straightforward a character as he appears.

For one thing, he appears to have been truly vile in his former life – every time you feel bad for him as he remembers his murdered family and has his periodic run-ins with Red John, there comes an episode which illustrates just how awful he was as a human being. And then Baker allows you a glimpse of the hollowness behind his everpresent smile, and you’re back to sympathizing with him.

I have to say, I like it.


Posted by on April 7, 2009 in Entertainment, Review, Television, Video


25 responses to “The Mentalist

  1. Sraboney (Bones)

    April 7, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    No show can beat Law & Order…I’ve watched each episode umpteen times…I watch House too because of the lead character…

  2. Mamma Mia! Me a Mamma?!?

    April 8, 2009 at 12:28 am

    I had no idea Aussie men were dishy! Hugh (stop-my-beating-heart) Jackson and Simon (kill-me-with-your-crooked-smile) Baker (he had me the first time he flashed that smile in ‘Devil Wears Prada’)!

    And what makes them both so much more yummy is their faithfulness to their wives. Yes! It is a turn-on!

  3. Amey

    April 8, 2009 at 8:32 am

    On one hand, you have Mentalist – a false psychic turned into detective to solve crime. On the other hand, you have Psych – a detective turned into a false psychic to solve crime. Although, Psych is in much lighter tone than Mentalist.

    As for Kings, I like it till now. The concept is really good, and they have translated the myth well till now. Let’s see…

  4. desigirl

    April 8, 2009 at 10:15 am

    OOh this started here two weeks back and I am hooked already!!! I *heart* Baker. Didn’t he appear in Devil Wears Prada?

  5. cuteminilicious

    April 8, 2009 at 10:38 am

    I saw this yesterday & it was pretty intersting…<3 Simon Baker is so Hot!
    @Desigirl-Yes he was in Devil wears Prada, and looked gorgeous in it too 😀

  6. pitu

    April 8, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    ooo sounds promising! I have been looking for a good show since House and Curb dvds don’t seem to be coming out and Tudors was such a bore… Have you seen Medium (Arquette)- that seemed interesting as well.

  7. M

    April 8, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Hmm…sounds interesting, am getting somewhat bored by House. (and no, don’t care if Kutner lived or died, I didn’t care for the second lot much anyway). Law and Order still holds true for me (Plain L&O, not the SVU one) – need to check this out.


  8. Amrita

    April 9, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Sraboney – lolz, superfan huh? I like it fine but sometimes I just want something a little pulpy.

    Amey – I hear they’re canceling it 😦 Kings, i mean. I don’t know if I want to watch it now, I’m already mad at them for cancelling Life on Mars and leaving us with that shitty ending, and now Life is up in the air and so is Chuck apparently. We’ll all be watching Jay Leno whether we like it or not it seems.
    For some reason, I don’t care for Psych. I’m glad other people do because its Dule Hill (Charlie!) but I really dont care for it.

    Mamma, Cutemilicious & DG – isn’t he!! I saw him in Prada but he simply never registered like this. I likey!

    Pitu – ha, this is basically a prettier, lighter, funnier Medium is what it is.

    M – I love the pulp which is why SVU and Miami do it for me when I want to relax. And Kutner was the only one of the new Cottages that I cared about so it kind of sucks, esp with 13 still sucking the life out of every scene she’s in. Try this one out, at the very least, you’ll have something pretty to look at for 45 mins. 😀

  9. wordjunkie

    April 10, 2009 at 12:05 am

    Hey, my comment got swallowed by wordpress.

    I posted about my grand obsession with House yesterday, so it was nice coming here and reading this post. Have linked to you.

  10. Amey

    April 10, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Yeah, the season finale of Life almost seemed like series finale. Most of the questions answered, the main villain dead, what’s next?

    As for Chuck, seriously? They are canceling Chuck? So when is The Office getting canceled?

    Kings is new, and I am not exactly the best person to ask. Check it out and tell me.

  11. musicthis

    April 12, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    How about ‘Lie To Me’…? I like most of the shows you referred to in your post above, so I figure you might have caught this one too.. Whenever an episode of ‘Lie to Me’ catches my attention, it is for the same reasons why ‘Criminal Minds’ works.. they are all skilled at observing human behavior and indulge in a lot of psycho-analyzing (the criminal and each other) in between solving crimes accidentally. But sometimes the ‘Lie to Me’ lead character’s gruff behavior really does annoy me, as he attempts to channel House’s charming bedside manner and intelligence but doesn’t have Hugh Laurie’s charm. And those slow-down shots of people’s facial tics (“micro-expressions?! did you catch that?!”) for the dumb viewer’s benefit? Not very nice.
    Initially I liked ‘Lie To Me’ better than ‘Mentalist’, but Simon Baker and Robin Tunney have grown on me. My favorite character on this show? Has to be Cho.

  12. Amrita

    April 13, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Wordjunkie – oh no! WP does that sometimes… and it’s not in the spam list so it’s well and truly gone. I do love House and still watch it, it’s not as good as it used to be, but thats still oodles better than most others. And your post sent me to the most fascinating link! Thanks.

    Amey – yup, no Chuck apparently. What the hell are we all going to watch? I finally saw Kings and it was good while it lasted but I really didn’t have a problem putting it behind me. I’m a lot more interested in Southland, the new John Wells drama. Check it out.

    Musicthis – oo, you and I seem to have the same tastes, indeed. I can’t believe how much I miss Mandy Patinkin on CM. I haven’t seen Lie to Me yet but I plan on watching the first epi soon. And Cho is absolutely the man! I loved that epi in which Jane dressed him up as a ladykiller 😀

    • musicthis

      April 24, 2009 at 6:15 pm

      Oh I just saw this comment – yeah, Mandy Patinkin was sooo good. I don’t like Joe Mantegna so much – his “big” mystery that he couldn’t solve for years (the whole ‘Of Mice & Men’ storyline) was interesting, but his character’s become a tad boring after that. In more recent episodes, I’ve missed Gray Gubler a little bit – his cuteness hasn’t been taking centerstage that much. I enjoyed the most recent one about the family trying to figure out their second son’s death and discovering something very chilling instead, and next week’s looks promising as well.

      Yeah – Cho.. is adorable. He comes in this ad for like Shell or something?, and smiles. Actually smiles. It must cost him to not be able to smile at all in Mentalist.

      Btw.. one more, since you liked ‘Lie to Me’. Have you seen ‘Leverage’? Different tack, just as entertaining.

  13. Amey

    April 13, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    I liked the “Kings” concept, and it played right in my complaint that India has no good fantasy/quest serials (even books for that matter). And please don’t tell me about Alif Laila or Alladin, one was ages and eons ago, the other is so completely weird. We have huge material for a great fantasy only in Mahabharat, not to mention other myths, and this would be a great way to go.

    As for Chuck, if they cancel it I am going to start a protest by not visiting I don’t have a TV, and I will watch pirated versions of Office on other sites (not hulu either). Who’s with me?

    • Amrita

      April 15, 2009 at 2:44 pm

      Is it because they basically turn everything into the saas-bahu format? I saw a few epis of Mahabharat after you talked about it, and it basically ran like every Ekta Kapoor serial I’ve ever seen. And the acting was of the same calibre.

      Kings did the concept really well, true. And the fact that they could come up with a look like that on a TV budget was awesome. Still gonna get canceled though coz Jay Leno is what it’s all about apparently.

      As for NBC, if they keep up their stellar work this way, I’m sure as hell joining you on that blackout.

  14. pitu

    April 15, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    @Amey: I kinda liked Rajkumar Aryann and DharamVeer the few times I caught those episodes ;-D they were so funny! Two piddly little boys pretending to play dressup with talwaar ki nok 😀

  15. Amey

    April 16, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    @Amrita: Good, let’s start gathering virtual signatures 😀

    @Pitu: There was one more thing called Arsalaan or something. I watched one episode, when they told me The Bad Guy killed his father. Then his team in a school played some kind of sport with goals at both ends, while a bad guy tried to put a spell on him to kill him. I stopped watching at that point. (Please tell me you know why)

  16. pitu

    April 16, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    Hari Gamlewala ki copy!!!!!!! And Pitu FTW!!

    • Amrita

      April 16, 2009 at 2:25 pm

      Hari gamlewala! hahahaha!

  17. deej

    April 17, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    normally you watching a show is like a sign for the studio bosses to cancel it. i hope the same doesnt happen w/ the mentalist. i *hearts* simon.

    • Amrita

      April 17, 2009 at 3:08 pm

      Owtch! Meanie! But sadly, tis a True! But I’m safe this time I think because this show is a ratings killer. It’s safe enough to have a wide fan base.

      • Amey

        April 24, 2009 at 12:59 pm

        Uh, should I read anything in the fact that I haven’t seen new episodes of Mentalist coming out for a long long time?

        • Amrita

          April 24, 2009 at 1:54 pm

          Excuuuuuuuuuuuuuse ME! The show returns this coming Tuesday, April 28th.


          • Amey

            April 24, 2009 at 2:30 pm

            Hmm, I hope it does, for your case [if the comments here are any indication ;)]

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