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