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The Mentalist, Season One (2008)

Intelligent shows are hard to come by. Sometimes even a concept that has been done before can still be clever if it’s covered by a bushel of talent and good “magic.” Fortunately, The Mentalist has both.

Living a lie is what Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) does best. Or he did. For many years, he masqueraded as a high-profile medium who could communicate with deceased loved ones. Off of other’s pain he made a good living for his family. Years later, his new role, as a consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation (or the CBI) has ulterior motives attached.

Led by agent Theresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney), the team is used to, but always wary of Patrick’s crazy talk and random theories. Most especially is this true of newbie, Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti). Joining the women on the five-person traveling CBI team is Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman), who is crushing on rookie agent Van Pelt, and Kimball Cho (Tim Kang). When the infamous serial killer known as Red John strikes again in a double-murder, Patrick takes a very personal interest in the case. But is this Red John or a desperate copycat...?

There is plenty interesting about this show. Not the least of which is naming its male lead with a feminine last name. It may not be something anyone gives a second thought too were it not for the fact – as any crime drama fan knows, these shows almost always refer to the characters by their last name. Calling its leading male character by a female name is usually one of those small things that annoys me as a viewer though in this instance, Patrick Jane is such a charismatic, likable albeit deeply-scared character (plus it doesn’t hurt that Baker is in the lead role) that I don’t let the exclamations of “Jane!” in reference to him bug me. Or the fact that the use of “Jane” brings to mind reflections of the popular, dramatic scene in Jane Eyre. But that’s beside the point and in fact, a totally random thing. Back on topic. 
When you look closely at the characters, some would-be viewers may not appreciate or like Patrick. I do. Baker plays a confident, self-assured character whose feathers don’t ruffle easily (save for jabs towards his family) nor does he mince words when questioning suspects whether they’re guilty or not. Baker has been heralded as a kind of Sherlock Holmes character in this role and in some respects that is indeed true. His astute observations are largely based on guesswork and calculated deductions on what he sees of the person in their surroundings.

Because of this, Jane often calls things as they are without apology. He’s often like a little kid in a candy store with his guesses – albeit a very charming one. I like what writers have done with his character yet know beneath the fun façade, he’s a man emotionally hurting, riddled with guilt. Perhaps this is no reason to excuse him though it does explain why he is as he is and no matter the method, it does get results. (And really, anyone who is a fan-girl of Sherlock Holmes shouldn’t mind Patrick’s variety of questioning.)  

If you’re a crime show junkie – like me – then The Mentalist is worth a look. Though later seasons don’t follow the same path, the first season strays away from romantic entanglements, which means there is very little lose moral character in that respect, a refreshing change when considering all of the counterparts to The Mentalist.

Fans of the lighthearted Psych may also enjoy this alternative as it puts a more serious approach on crime-solving whereas the USA Network show is so comedic it wavers towards being “slapstick” at times. Between Patrick’s love of a good cup of tea – something he describes as a “hug in a cup,” or his aversion to violent offenders chasing him, and the cohesiveness of the team and the genuine laughs it all evokes is priceless. Underneath the mirth is a sense of doom due to Patrick’s past yet that didn’t deter me from becoming involved with this gang – so much so that I’m already over halfway through season three after starting this show just before the holidays. This is true, and let me tell you, I feel no shame, gang.  

(CONTENT: some of the crime scenes are more violent than others – victims are found in a variety of ways though the camera rarely catches anything overly graphic – Red John’s victims are raped though we see little of this aside from conversation and the scene of the victim drowning in their own blood. At least one case involves homosexuality [limited to nothing more than conversation] and others discover affairs during the investigation. There is some innuendo and Rigsby is often teased because of his crush on Grace. Profanity is rare though a part of the dialogue – including da*n and other commonplace words. The show is rated TV14.)
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  1. I actually don't generally like crime shows (unless Sherlock counts as a crime show in which case, LOVE!) but I have an old coworker who really loves The Mentalist...and a lot of times we like the same things. So I should probably check it out. Great review!

    1. Sherlock totally counts as a crime show, Melissa. :)

      I am kind of a crime show junkie to the point that a friend teases me about it though I love costume dramas and the more lighthearted series, too. If you try The Mentalist I hope you like it - there are times when it gets a bit "too" serious but (so far) it's a nice balance of humor and sleuthing. :)

  2. I adore the Mentalist! The witty banter and rapport between Lisbon and Jane makes the show in my opinion. I can't wait to see how they wrap the show up in this final season.

    1. Aw, bummer! I hadn't read yet that this was The Mentalist's final season. In that case, I agree, here's hoping things are wrapped up nicely. After all Patrick has been through, he needs a good ending. :)

      LOVE Lisbon and Jane both - they are great characters.

  3. Great review! I absolutely love this show, though the last few episodes have been rather different! I just discovered it recently and caught up pretty fast! My mom and I decided that The Mentalist was like a middleman between Psych and Sherlock, since he's more mature than Shawn but kinder than Sherlock!
    And Heidi I don't think it's officially been cancelled yet, at least I couldn't find anything when I searched. From what I could tell it's on the fence but the ratings are looking up!

    1. Thanks for reading, Abbi.

      I'm right there with you - and I love your description of the show. You are so right. He's in-between Shawn and Sherlock, well said. Oh, you have me nervous about those S6 episodes. I'm about to start S4 and will of course, then watch five before the DVD for six comes out; I've read spoiler-y stuff though so needless to say, I'm eager to watch it all unfold.

      I had to search a cancellation too, Abbi and found the same as you. Here's HOPEING it gets a renewal because it's a show definitely worth it. :)

  4. You know, I haven't even heard of The Mentalist. I know: where have I been? Sounds like a pretty cool show. I'll probably give it a watch sometime in the future. Thanks for the review!

    1. We'll live under a rock together, Fayehope - I just started it myself, so where have I been!? :) So far, so good and I'm already about to start season four! Yeah, I've kind of binge watched this one. ;)

      Thanks for reading.

  5. I've been meaning to try the Mentalist for awhile but never quite got around to it. I recognized the main actor from The Devil Wears Prada and immediately put it on my to-watch list. If you're into crime shows, have you seen Perception? It's one of my favorites :) (although nothing can ever beat Sherlock)

    1. Hey, Skye! :)

      If you liked Simon in The Devil Wears Prada, you'd like him in this. It's really quite fun and I appreciate its tendency to be more lighthearted than "heavy."

      Yes! I did rent Perception, it was clever and I like that the hero isn't your average character - makes things interesting. :)

      Three cheers for Sherlock. He's just... awesome.

  6. I love that you reviewed this! I'm SO in agreement with you - such a fantastic show. The writing's smart, Jane's personality is so random and fun, and we love how they pull off many of the heartwarming wrap-ups. :0)

    1. Hey, Mary! Glad you stopped by - and shared your thoughts on The Mentalist. I agree. Jane's personality makes the show what it is. The crazy, random things he does is what endears it plus I also love that its a more lighthearted look at a crime show rather than serious. The episode last night had him inspiring a group of concert musicians to engage in a moment of random music making and that ensured that the ending was upbeat. :)

  7. I've actually wanted to check this show out for a couple years, but I've just never gotten around to it. I love Psych (Shawn has even mentioned "The Mentalist" in a few episodes!), and I just have a feeling The Mentalist is one I'd like.

    Now that White Collar is over for the season (sniff, sniff...) I have a spot in my rotation open. But, I'd kind of like to get back into Castle, as well. Watched a few episodes, and then over the holidays I just got out of the habit of watching it. But from the little I saw, I could tell that it would eventually build into something great.

    Really appreciate your reviews on things like this, Rissi! From what little I'd heard of the content of The Mentalist, I thought it would be pretty iffy...but your content review makes it seem not as bad as I feared. Maybe I'll get around to checking the show out later this year. :)

    1. If you like Psych, I really think you'd enjoy this one as well, Valerie. It's not as funny in the same sense as the USA show, however it still has great humor. (And of course, the crimes are probably more "grisly.")

      I'm a bit nervous for White Collar this fall (when I finally get to see it) because I followed the tweets and have a Twitter friend who was quite mad at how things went down. Here's hoping I'll still like it. Love Castle. It's such a happy-go-lucky show and the relationships? They are fabulous.

      Thanks, Valerie. I never know if it's worth posting TV shows or not just because I'm WAY behind on the current seasons by my own choice. The first season of The Mentalist is reasonably clean before the next few fall a bit "off" but are still nothing horrible so long as the viewer can excuse a scene or two here and there. Hope you enjoy the show if you decide to give it a shot. :)


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