Despite what I said in my Fall TV preview post, the online videos for The Mentalist piqued my interest enough to get me to DVR the series pilot last night, which I then watched a bit later in the evening. So, job well done CBS video/PR dudes, you got me. But how was the actual show?
The Mentalist is about Patrick Jane, “an independent consultant with the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI), who has a remarkable track record for solving serious crimes by using his razor sharp skills of observation. Within the Bureau, Jane is notorious for his blatant lack of protocol and his semi-celebrity past as a psychic medium, whose paranormal abilities he now admits he feigned.”
Right off the bat we see Patrick involved in a missing persons case turned homicide as he ‘interviews’ the mother of the murdered victim who suspects the father actually did the killing. This opening scene is there for two reasons: first, to familiarize ourself with how Jane canvases a crime scene looking for clues and second, to establish how he doesn’t follow the CBI playbook, which, in this case, leads to a bad result.
From there we move on to the actual crime, another murder, seemingly committed by the notorious serial killer, Redjohn. Everyone, except Jane of course, believes Redjohn committed the murder. Jane then goes about tracking down the ‘real killer’.
This episode does a decent job of setting the stage for the series. We get a little bit of characterization for all the members of the CBI team, and quite a bit, via flashback, about Jane. It turns out, he ended his career as a ‘psychic’ because of Redjohn, which has caused him a lot of psychological issues, which he hinds underneath a layer of irreverent humor and sarcasm. He also enjoys tearing down those we he feels are being charlatans, or just full of themselves.
Now, I can’t help but compare this show with Psych, which is a USA Network show with a very similar setup. Except in Psych, Shawn Spencer uses his powers of observation to pretend to be a psychic so the police will hire him to help solve crimes, which is the inverse of The Mentalist. The other difference being Psych is a comedy, full of geeky and pop-culture reference. The Mentalist has some humor, mostly from the way Jane interacts with other people, but is much, much darker in tone, and it’s definitely not a comedy. We also get to see what Jane see’s, but we’re left to figure out what it means, usually when Jane explains his observations, whereas in Psych, the relevant items are highlighted for us.
The one big issue I have, and it isn’t really that big, more of an annoyance, is that The Mentalist is ‘yet another show with an overarching story’, in this case, the Redjohn thread. I don’t think this show needs a ‘nemesis’ for Jane to go up against and flail away at. I don’t think the series needs that at all, it can work well as a weekly, stand-alone procedural show, much like Psych.
One other small issue I have is with Jane himself: he sometimes come across like a smarmy used-car salesman. That’s mitigated by why he’s that way, but it’s still a bit annoying.
Overall though, I thought The Mentalist was pretty good, certainly worth watching in the future. I don’t think it’ll make my ‘must watch’ list, but I will try to catch it when I can.