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The Mentalist fails to deliver, even after three seasons. Why is it still on the air?

TV Preview: The Mentalist – “Red Moon”

I haven’t watched CBS’s The Mentalist since it premiered in the fall of 2008, so The Mentalistwhen I heard of a chance to get a screener for this week’s episode for review, I jumped at the chance to check it out. After all, though I hadn’t cared for the series on my initial viewing, the show is in its third season, so I figured it had likely gotten better.

I’m sad to say, I was wrong. It is a typical crime show procedural. The gimmick of The Mentalist is that the central character, Patrick Jane (Simon Baker), pretends to be psychic to help the police solve crimes. I have to say, I didn’t notice any psychic shenanigans in this episode at all. I checked Wikipedia, but it didn’t appear that the premise has changed. USA already has a fake-psychic detective on Psych, and their version, albeit sillier, is better executed. I think it’s Jane’s quiet calm that throws me off. If a show is going to build around an eccentric central character, the person should actually seem eccentric. Otherwise, he’s just boring. (See House or Castle for successful examples.)

The ongoing plot involves Jane hunting for Red John, who murdered his family. This provided the sole interesting moments of the episode. The exchange between Simon and Teresa (Robin Tunney) about revenge, and the purpose it may or may not serve, was fascinating. Sadly, it was short, and didn’t go very deep. I feel like this was an opportunity for the show to shine, and like Jane, it slunk into the shadows instead.

The central story this week involves a serial killer taking out cops, who seems to have broken his or her pattern. Patrick, Teresa, and the others partner with the local law enforcement to take down the treat. Star Trek: Enterprise‘s former series regulars John Billingsley and Connor Trinneer guest star, as does Chris Ellis (Catch Me If You Can, Apollo 13, Armageddon). They each does a fair job pulling their weight, but are constantly sucked down by what happens around them.

Though procedurals are not at all my bag, I can recognize a good one. I have tuned into an episode or two of Law & Order: SVU and been blown away. The Mentalist does not fall into this category. How it has lasted three seasons is beyond me.

The Mentalist airs Thursday at 10pm on CBS.

About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome is the creator and writer of It's All Been Done Radio Hour, a modern scripted live comedy show and podcast in the style of old-timey radio serials, and the founder of the Columbus-based entertainment network, IABDPresents. He is also the Chief Television Critic for Seat42F.com and a long-time contributor for Blogcritics. Plus, he works fiction into his space time. Visit http://iabdpresents.com for more of his work.

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