Right from the get-go, one gets the uneasy feeling that they’ve seen Mental: The Complete First Season before. Set in a hospital, the series centers on an eccentric and extremely radical doctor who uses his “outside the box” approach to medicine to help his patients, at the risk of alienating his colleagues and superiors. And then it dawns on you: this is the same damn setup as House. Sure, there are a number of differences between Mental and House that could prompt a relatively minor debate as to whether or not Mental’s similarity to House was just a coincidence.
Unfortunately, there are so many similarities to be found here, that any such argument would be short-lived: Mental is just a poorly-built House.
Chris Vance (also a Brit, like House’s Hugh Laurie, although this actor retains his native accent) plays Dr. Jack Gallagher, an extroverted psychologist (or is it psychiatrist?) who takes up residence at Wharton Memorial Hospital in L.A. (where there is no shortage of nutjobs) to help the mentally ill with his “unique” style of healing.
Instead of being a major asshole like Dr. House, Dr. Gallagher comes across as conman magician with a persistent shit-eating grin on his face. A bored-looking Annabelle Sciorra plays the Lisa Cuddy part, while Derek Webster gets the dubious honor of playing an evil mixture of Omar Epps’ and Chi McBride’s characters. Also starring in this TV turkey are Nicholas Gonzalez, Jacqueline McKenzie, and Marisa Ramirez. Fans of David Carradine may want to check Mental out, as it features the late actor’s final TV appearance (although his performance is a silent one).
Filmed in Columbia, Mental was made for Fox’s international television market, which leads one to wonder if Latin America and Asia actually have ever seen House or not. To the best of my knowledge all thirteen episodes housed in this four-disc set represents the entire series (word is that the show will not see a Second Season, which probably didn‘t break very many hearts). The episodes are presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen ratio, with an English 5.1 sound (English SDH, Spanish, French and Portuguese subtitles are included). Special features include an alternate unaired pilot episode, and a featurette on the show’s main character.
The long and short of it: Mental might be a formidable foe to House — but only for those who find the latter’s protagonist to be utterly intolerable, as Mental’s main character is completely different (even though he’s exactly the same). Mental may also be just the thing for diehard House addicts to kill the time with a good chuckle or two before their favorite show comes on.
Otherwise, avoid it like the shameless rip-off it is.