TV Review: The Mentalist - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

TV Review: The Mentalist

10/01/2008

Simon Baker stars as Patrick Jane, a detective with the California Bureau of Investigation who is most likely a descendent of Sherlock Holmes, but who in his previous life was more like John Edward, not the disgraced Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, but John Edward, the world renown psychic medium who talks to dead people.

This isn't Baker's first TV series. In 2001, Baker headlined a drama on CBS that lasted for three years called The Guardian. Baker played a lawyer who after being arrested for substance abuse was ordered to do community service as a child advocate. The show dealt with powerful cases and was highly personal, touching upon serious issues. It still stands as the best program to air on CBS in this past decade.

The show was smartly written and Baker acted in it with sheer precision. Since its cancellation, the airwaves have been bombarded with various lawyer or cop shows that haven't had the personal touch of that one. That show was a great character study more than anything.

More often than not, detective shows focus more on the various cases and never really the people investigating them. When I saw the ads for this show, I was excited to see Baker back on CBS, but I was skeptical that this was going to be just another in a wave of soul-less, impersonal detective shows like all the others.

I was also skeptical because the premise of this show is similar to that of the USA network's Psych, only more psychological and dramatic. That cable series centers on a man who pretends to be a psychic while operating his own private eye service. Of course he isn't a psychic, he just has amazing skills of perception and deduction.

This is also the case of Patrick Jane. Everyone in the Bureau knows he's not psychic, yet we see flashbacks of when Jane was doing his best John Edward impersonation. Jane has a troubled past. As such, he's a bit of an arrogant, smug jerk that makes him very standoffish and lonely. There's an echo of the main character on House, the popular FOX series, but Jane is slightly less annoying.

Instead of just proving to everyone else, how smart he is, or how he's more capable, Jane regards himself as a kind of magician who simply doesn't want to show how the tricks are done. Yet, there are conversations here that reveal so much insight like Jane's atheism, despite his former spiritual profession. There are layers here to this man, which get pealed back.

The extreme interest in this show comes not from seeing how the trick is done, but how the magician came to his magic in the first place. We want to understand not how the man is able to saw the girl in half and put her back together, but why the man has the saw in the first place.

He certainly gets on the nerves of his co-workers, including Teresa Lisbon, played by Robin Tunney. Even when Jane's supposed to be on suspension, he shows up at a crime scene. We wonder why. As in the recently adopted series from Showtime Dexter, we are entangled in the Red John serial killer storyline with definite personal connections. It's creepy and certainly intriguing.

This may be the most addictive of the new TV shows on any network.

Five Stars out of Five
Running Time: 60 mins.
Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBS

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