26 March, 2009

Preview: "The Mentalist"


I wanted to do a procedural with a lead who would break the procedure. I've always been fascinated by mentalism and that area of magic. These people claim to be mind readers or psychics ... but being able to actually convince others of that is more impressive. They have very aggressive psychological insights into people, and it seemed natural for someone chasing criminals to have those kind of skills.

The heroic nature of the character is that he's lived through tragedy, but he doesn't let that show, and the job he's doing is a direct result of it. He's seeking atonement and redemption.

If there was one word that I think Simon brings to the character, it's grace. The way he moves, the way he interacts with other people. He has a smile that you want to see. You want to draw it out of him. That's one of those things that mentalists understand, those basic physical responses; when you see someone smiling and it's an infectious smile, it makes you slightly happier. It's a puppies-and-sunsets thing, but hey, that's what TV's about, to some degree.

(Washington Post)


The premise of Bruno Heller's show is "what if Derren Brown decided to work with the police?" Patrick Jane is also a mentalist, or psychological manipulator with great powers of observation, who used to make a living at pretending to be a psychic (as they all pretend) until tragedy strikes. Although I was the first person on the Interweb to big up last season's best new network show Life (I'll pause for your applause) it's only when the creator writes it that it truly shines. Also it's still hampered by a boring complicated conspiracy story which detracts from the murder of the week.

This season's best new network show The Mentalist is a similar quirky police procedural and while I can also tell when it's the creator writing, the other writers on his team are quality enough to get pretty close to his voice. And while Jane has a recurring personal storyline, generally anyone can watch any episode and won't be confused or bored.

Not that it's a competition or anything but The Mentalist wins by a mile.

Normally a quirky classy show would be perpetually at the brink of cancellation and moved round the schedule to find a good slot but the audience responded and it was the biggest freshman hit of the season.

I'm only patriotic when it comes to football but I can't help feeling a twinge of pride that Bruno Heller is a limey. I do wonder if that outside perspective is what gives it that originality and edge. Apparently he didn't even bother watching other cop shows, which is astonishing. It makes me wonder whether genre research is probably procrastination.

The Mentalist is very highly recommended.

Thursdays, 9:00pm, Five, starting today

CBS official site

Five official site

Bruno Heller interview (Read Scott Myers comments on the interview: "how a writer must know their characters on an intimate level")

Pilot script (via Lee)

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