With the massive flood of police procedurals on the prime time television, they tend to run together for me. Unfortunately, when a new procedural debuts on broadcast, it always manages to look like a clone (or composite) of others. That's the trap The Mentalist first fell into for me – it looked like just another run-of-the-mill police procedural poised to repeated the same concepts of CSI, NCIS , Criminal Minds, etc. with slightly different characters to fool viewers into thinking it was different. Then one evening I was flipping channels and came across The Mentalist. There was nothing else on, so I thought I'd turn it on as background noise while I worked on my computer. It ended up becoming far more than that. Instead of staring at computer screen, I was completely riveted to the TV. By the show's end, I was completely sucked in and it had proven just how very wrong I was about its inability to be original.
On the contrary - The Mentalist is a surprisingly fresh and original take on the traditional police procedural. While yes, it is another procedural, it has a light air of freshness, fun, and wittiness mixed perfectly with drama, intrigue, and moments of darkness.
The Mentalist follows the adventures of Patrick Jane "Jane" (Simon Baker), as an independent consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Jane once made a living as a fake psychic, but admitted he was a fraud after a serial killer known as "Red John" killed his wife and daughter. Jane now uses his skills as a mentalist, "someone who uses mental acuity, hypnosis and/or suggestion – a master manipulator of thoughts and behavior" as well as his keen sense of observation, to help the CBI fight crime and ultimately, bring "Red John" to justice.
The undeniable star of the show is Simon Baker, who brings a unique, quirky character to the screen in Patrick Jane. Jane has the ability to get the audience on his side through his witty dialog, unexpected comments through keen observation, sympathetic past and overall quirky nature. Once Jane gets the audience in his pocket, it's easy to follow along on his adventures and experience all of the emotions he goes through -from the off-beat comments to the dark, haunting moments. Jane truly holds the show together, for while he plays off the other characters well, The Mentalist would be nothing without him.
The other characters are simply not as interesting as Jane, though they fit perfectly with the feel and intention of the series. Straight-faced, dead-pan Kimball Cho (Tim Kang), big, good-natured Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman), newcomer Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti) and others can sometimes feel flat or cardboard-like compared to the eccentric Jane and his unorthodox shenanigans, but they still work with the show.
Unfortunately, the mysteries and overarching plots themselves don't quite hold up the characters. The mysteries, for me anyway, were easy to figure out long before the end and the plot elements involving Jane's constant clashing with the CBI and office romances felt a little cliche and overused from other police procedurals. The primarily weak plots (some are better than others), though, didn't deter me from the series. I kept watching before I was completely taken in by the characters – mostly Jane. For me, this series became entirely about seeing what Jane was going to do next, rather than about figuring out whodunit.
This DVD set includes all 23 episode of the first season of The Mentalist on six discs in enhanced 1.78:1 widescreen that makes the scenic California landscape look gorgeous. The audio is presented in clean, crisp Dolby Digital Surround 5.1, with the option of a Portugese Digital sound track or English, Spanish, French, Portugese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai subtitles. The bonus features include a handful of deleted scenes, a hilarious gag reel, a short documentary where the cast and creator, Bruno Heller, discuss the series, and a short, realistic discussion of whether or not psychics or mentalists are actually credible.
While a little rough around the edges, The Mentalist is a fun, engaging new drama with one of the most enjoyable characters I've seen on television in a long time. I'm excited for season two.