WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) is a former television psychic whose wife and daughter were brutally murdered by the serial killer Red John after he got involved in the case. After these terrible events, Jane became a consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation, helping to catch killers and hoping to finally hunt down and capture Red John. Jane uses his brilliant talents of observation and intuition to solve crimes and put killers behind bars.
WHAT I LIKED
I have so many DVDs and pre-existing series to watch that I often miss new shows when they hit the air. So it’s not surprising that the first person I heard about “The Mentalist” from was Shawn Spencer in the television show “Psych.” While “The Mentalist” isn’t a carbon copy of shows like “Psych” and “Monk,” they draw from the same well, which is why all three are very popular. (And in spite of the jabs that “Psych” has taken at “The Mentalist,” there were some subtle pineapple references in a couple episodes to let us know all is well between fake psychics.)
It’s a rare thing to have a cast of a television series that is populated with generally likeable characters, but “The Mentalist” manages to do it. Leading the team is Simon Baker as Jane, and he does an incredible job mixing humanity with smugness. Even though he can be a real ass, you can’t help but like the character. It’s nice to see Baker, who has struggled to rise above C-list status for years, get a shot like this.
Supporting Jane is Robin Tunney, who comes across well on screen though she could stand to eat a few carbs throughout her day. Tunney’s character of Lisbon is no-nonsense but serves as a nice foil for Jane’s bouncing between darkness and silliness.
The other detectives in the squad include Tim Kang, Owain Yeoman and Amanda Righetti, who provide different levels of comic relief. The challenge of a show about murder is to keep the series light, and this supporting cast manages this well. Bring in the incestuous element of television casting, and you’ll find friendly faces from a variety of shows, giving us the President of the United States and Cylon alike.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The basic formula of “The Mentalist” is a police procedural, and it differentiates itself from other shows by giving the fake psychic twist. However, you don’t have to be a psychic to figure out killer in the series. After two or three episodes, I had the formula nailed and was able to guess the killer literally the moment he or she came on screen.
I’m literally batting about .900 in guessing the ending of these shows. Either I’m a genius or the stories are too predictable. (I like to think I’m a genius, but I imagine the formula needs to be shaken up a bit.)
Finally, the focus on Red John isn’t prominent enough to justify giving each episode a title with “Red” in it. I don’t necessarily want to see too much of Red John because more than a handful of episodes each season will run that story into the ground. I just hope the series grows beyond its manhunt status.
In addition to the 23 episodes in the first season, the DVDs comes with deleted scenes (called “Lost Evidence”) for select episodes.
Disc six also includes a featurette called “Evidence of a Hit Series” in which creator Bruno Heller and the cast talk about the development and production of the series.
However, more interesting to me was the “Cracking the Crystal Ball: Mentalist vs. Psychic” featurette which includes interviews with psychics, parapsychologists and skeptics about the possibility (or the impossibility) of psychic abilities and its use by the authorities.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Skeptics and fans of police procedural shows... and fake psychics like Shawn Spencer.
Watch this clip from "The Mentalist: The Complete First Season"