The TV Addict Investigates THE MENTALIST

simon baker the mentalist

In a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly, THE MENTALIST creator Bruno Heller proudly proclaimed that he’d “much rather please 10 old ladies in Iowa than one hipster in New York.”

Well, this TV Addict would like to take this opportunity to pass along a message to Mr. Heller: Mission Accomplished.

Call me a glutton for punishment — or at least someone who refuses to judge a book by it’s terribly predictible cover — but after reading Alynda Wheat’s article chronicling CBS’ unstoppable lineup of crime dramas, this TV Addict found himself oddly compelled to give THE MENTALIST the old college try. After-all, 15 million viewers a week can’t all be wrong, can they?

Surprisingly enough, the answer isn’t nearly as cut and dry as I thought.

On the one hand, this TV Addict can’t help but appreciate the appeal of a show like THE MENTALIST (not to mention virtually every other CBS procedural on the air.) Heller has not only managed to snag the charismatic TV vet Simon Baker to play lead detective, sorry, Independent Consultant Patrick Jane. He’s surrounded his star with an incredibly likable supporting cast including Owain Yeoman (TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES), Robin Tunney (PRISON BREAK), Gregory Itzin (24) and Amanda Righetti (THE OC). Throw that cast into a weekly self-contained storyline in which good triumphs over evil (and hey, don’t we need that in today’s gloomy world) and it’s easy to see why CBS was so quick to pick up the freshman series for a full season. (Well, that and those 15 million viewers I mentioned earlier).

Unfortunately, what is also easy to see is how limited the show’s appeal is to anyone who likes to be even remotely challenged by their small-screen viewing. Not only did I have Tuesday night’s guilty party pegged before the show broke for its second commercial, but  Itzin and Righetti are given so little to do that they make the criminally under-used FRINGE star Jasika Nicole look like she’s putting on a one woman show.

Which is why, even with everything the CBS procedural has going for it — including the finest head of hair since McDreamy scrubbed into Seattle Grace — THE MENTALIST will never find a permanent spot on this TV Addict’s DVR/PVR. Ironically, its biggest strength — self-contained episodes that allow a new viewer easy access to any given installment — also happens to be its weakness, as that format leaves little room for imaginative storytelling. And in my book, it ain’t must-see TV if 10 minutes into the ride, I know where the last stop is going to be.

Photo: Lance Staedler/CBS 2008

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  • Nick.C

    But if you only have watched this weeks episode then maybe you don’t know about RED JOHN.The person who murdered Jane’s wife and kid.Im sure we will get into that again soon.Although it might not be the most original show ever Simon Baker’s character is an original.For me he is what makes it work.In a tv landscape where true originality is very hard to come by(Fringe=X-Files,Greys=ER on Lifetime,Terminator=well Terminator)the cast can really define a show and this one is strong.I hope you give it another chance…

  • Victoria

    My biggest issue with it is the fact that the other investigators are portrayed as idiots basically. Tunney’s character is ALWAYS wrong and Baker’s is ALWAYS right. I realize that he is the star of the show but she wouldn’t be a lead investigator for a state agency if she wasn’t at least marginally good at police work.

    At least on Psych, Lassie does figure stuff out without the help of Shawn, it is fun to see Shawn have an announcement and have Lassie shut it down as something he already looked into. Or they show up at the bad guy’s house at the same time because they both figured it out. I would just like to see seasoned police investigators treated as such.

    Although the scene (in episode 2 I believe) with Baker playing Rock Paper Scissors with the local Sheriff was pretty awesome.

  • John

    I saw the pilot and haven’t watched since. The lead is another brilliant narcissist who is insufferable to be around. I already have one I watch on Tuesdays (House) and don’t need any more.

  • Monica M

    I watch this for Simon Baker. This show appeals to me for the same reason Criminal Minds appeals. I like seeing the psychology of both shows. I want to watch a show that expresses why people do the things they do. The supporting cast is interesting and diverse and I think the group will develop as time goes on. Patrick Jane may be seen as narcissist but he actually likes people and can be likable. For the House comparison, I find House fun to watch however, he is unlikeable.

  • GMG

    I adore Simon Baker, who I watched religiously on The Guardian (along, I’m sure with solely over 90 year old viewers). Robin Tunney, however, and her perma-exasperation make me want to run screaming from the room. Unfortunately, after watching the pilot, the show wasn’t good enough to counteract the Tunney effect. I’ll stick with James Roday and Dule Hill for my psychic detective fix from now on.

  • allie

    ADDICT, you MUST WATCH THE PILOT FOR 2 REASONS – (1) This week’s episode was, IMO, the weakest so far; and (2) You can’t fully appreciate Patrick Jane unless you know his backstory and for that you need to watch the pilot.

    The pilot was abolutely brilliant. If you don’t like the show after that then OK, it’s not your cup of tea, BUT I IMPLORE YOU TO WATCH THE PILOT and come back and tell us what you think…….

  • Nick.C

    I agree with you Allie!
    John ,you need to put down the pipe.Jane is nothing like House.

  • k8ie

    I liked it but I agree with the TV Addict’s assessment – fun to watch if you have an hour to kill on a Tuesday night but not must-see TV.

    The supporting cast is quite good, I actually like Tunney’s exasperation at being stuck with Baker’s character and Yeoman and the rest do a fine job. That said, it’s just too damn predictable.

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  • Alex G

    I dont agree with the last comment made i think the Mentalist is a great programe that can be enjoyed by all ages.I think that Simon Baker tops the whole programe of and is part of the reason we all love it so much.