Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TV premiering tonight: The Mentalist

I have a generally low tolerance for procedurals, so my dismissal of this show may be a little more hasty than it would be otherwise; if you're a Law & Order/CSI/Without a Trace/etc. junkie then you may find more here to like than I did. That said, I did think this was a slight cut above the average procedural, thanks to Simon Baker as the title character, a former sham psychic who now uses his keen insights into human nature to aid in criminal investigations, but in a totally arrogant, pissy way. Some have called it a serious take on Psych, but it doesn't have to keep up the central ruse of that show; everyone knows that the guy was a fake, and his abilities are all the more impressive for how he was able to fool so many for so long (there's also a nice bit with one of the team members trying to convince him that there are real psychics out there).

Still, the mystery in the pilot is supreme dullsville, and the backstory angst for the lead character feels a little tacked on. There isn't enough humor for this to get by as a quirky character piece like Monk or Psych or even The Closer, and the tortured emotional life of the protagonist isn't dominant or dark enough for the show to work as some sort of examination of his descent into obsession. Instead it's just another mediocre procedural with a few interesting twists in the margins, and thus will fit in perfectly with the uniformity of CBS' offerings. CBS, Tuesdays, 9 p.m.

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