I’m on board with THE MENTALIST.
Yes, it’s a formula cop show. Yes, its “hook” (the star has extraordinary powers of observation and is eccentric) is the same as five other police series. And yes, at the end of the day you don’t really give a rat's ass who “did it”. But Simon Baker is fun to watch and at the end of the day isn’t that all that matters?
What sets him apart is this insouciant I-don’t-give-a-shit attitude he has that I find very refreshing. Especially since every other TV crime fighter is driven and earnest to a fault. Hey, lighten up guys. It’s only murder.
The Mentalist has the obligatory hot partner. In this case, Robin Tunney. Since it’s CBS the one requirement is that she’s a brunette (Les Moonves loves his brunettes. Check out the CBS schedule. It’s filled with them.) She’s the serious one. She questions all the suspects while Simon hangs back, bemused, and after five minutes of getting nowhere, Simon pops in with one offhanded query and the suspect pours out his most innermost secrets. You don’t have to be a mentalist to see it coming a mile away but it works. Baker pulls it off. Robin of course finds him exasperating but unlike the bitch in CASTLE she's more tolerant and even thanks him more than once a year.
Then there’s the mandatory police staff supporting drones – interchangeable from any procedural except one of the members of this group is that Asian guy from the cellphone commercials and I just hate him. He’s probably the world’s greatest person but he always plays smug assholes that you just want to slug.
Last week’s episode was particularly entertaining. They entered the world of a biker gang. Great scene where they went to a biker bar to question a suspect. All these angry looking tatted dudes and in steps Simon in a tweed jacket completely at ease. Fearless Robin is there too. (I love, by the way, that she always introduces herself by flashing her badge and snarling “CBI” as if anyone knows what the hell that means. For reference: California Bureau of Intelligence, which no longer exists in that form.) The biker gang leader is ready to turn the Mentalist into a hood ornament but is instantly disarmed when Simon perceptively tells him he came from a dysfunctional family and had childhood issues. Wow! How did he know??? This leads me to a possible spinoff idea. “Dr. Laura Schlessinger: Homicide”. I want part creator credit if this ever happens.
One of the purposes of the police staff is to do all the action sequences. Case in point in this particular episode – Robin and the hot young red head (I’m sure Moonves was told was she’s a light brunette) handled a thrilling car chase while Baker gave a suspect a driving lesson.
The fact that Baker would probably call for a stunt double if he has to get up from a dinner table quickly is precisely why I love this show. It reminds me of my other all-time favorite urban drama, THE EQUALIZER.
This mid-80s series starred British actor, Edward Woodward as a former secret agent who now lives in Manhattan and helps protect regular citizens from bullies or the Mafia or biker gangs. When he made this series Woodward was already in his mid-to-late fifties and looked like Winston Churchill with a hairpiece. Not what you’d call imposing. Still, he’d walk into those biker bars and instead of the Hells Angels yelling, “What the fuck do you want, grandpa?” they’d cower. Why I never knew but I loved loved loved it.
My favorite episode found The Equalizer and a dangerous thug locked in a tense showdown. Both held handguns at their sides. But then the Equalizer flicked his wrist, raising his gun just a few inches and the thug was so intimidated he dropped his weapon. Zowie!! You just can’t choreograph action like that!
The older I get the more I appreciate these series. If that’s all it took to thwart vicious criminals than hey, I could still be James Bond!
Simon Baker is still a few years away from that but I have a feeling THE MENTALIST could last long enough to where he might not have the flexibility and dexterity he has now. And I’ll still be watching. Oh, and by the way, it did not go unnoticed that all the commercials on the show last week were for drugs and ointments.