Tag Archives: Psych

The 2008 Television Time Capsule: The Mentalist – “Red Handed”

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“Red Handed”

Season One, Episode Six

Airdate: November 11th, 2008

In the doldrums of the Christmas exam period, as new TV wound down, had a choice: catch up on an older show that I have sitting around on DVD or trying to keep culturally relevant by sampling the one new show that is a definitive hit. CBS’ The Mentalist is a long time coming: the network has been searching for a place for Simon Baker ever since it canceled The Guardian after three seasons, and after Smith was a total dud it was time to give Baker another chance in the spotlight.

Mostly, I’m including The Mentalist because of its success: it’s only grown since its premiere, and has the potential to emerge as a Tuesday cornerstone for the network. In a year where very few shows truly broke out, The Mentalist is a true success story.

But it’s also a smart show, in ways that are not always clear and certainly not driving some of the show’s creative input. Bruno Heller, in his first major series work since the end of HBO’s Rome, brings a certain wit to the series: it doesn’t offer anything that other procedurals don’t already offer in spades, but it has proven particularly capable of switching modes from drama to comedy.

A lot of this has to do with Baker’s charm: say what you will about the procedural drama as a medium, or the fact that this show is basically a more serious version of USA’s Psych, but Patrick Jane is an entertaining character to watch. He’s intelligent, his social ticks are less about smugness than they are about impatience (it’s a distinction), and his humanizing back story has been smartly underplayed but maintained in order to eventually pay off.

Picking a single episode is somewhat challenging, because every episode tends to blend into the next. However, if I had to pick one, I think that Jane’s foray into the world of gambling felt like the most fun, and the way the episode worked around it felt quite satisfying. Jane’s ability to gain financially from his efforts are in many ways a root cause of his past indiscretions, so his charity with said winnings adds to the character’s charm.

I am not likely to ever love the show, or watch it live as opposed to in a lull where nothing which needs thinking feels right, but the show may go down as the season’s only true hit: and while I at first was quite cynical about it success in the wake of better shows falling by the wayside, I nonetheless feel like the show remains a well-made procedural drama. And there’s room for one of those in the Time Capsule.

[For more details on the Cultural Learnings 2008 Television Time Capsule, click here!]

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Season Premiere: Burn Notice – “Breaking and Entering”

“Breaking and Entering”

July 9th, 2008

USA Today’s Robert Bianco, having seen the first two episodes of Burn Notice’s sophomore season, has fairly harsh words for what he views as the show’s shift in tone with the arrival of a more serialized plot development:

So what’s gone wrong? Like so many series today, Burn Notice has overburdened a fragile structure with a weighty continuing story…Unfortunately, the added depth has made the show less interesting, not more. And the time spent on the continuing story means the episodes’ capers are woefully underdeveloped.

However, after watching the premiere, I don’t really understand where he’s coming from here. He seems to argue that the tone of the series has been irrevocably changed from its previous standards, but the show was well within its comfort zone for the entire hour. Burn Notice is a show built on its clever set pieces, its charming interaction between Jeffrey Donovan and his wingpeople (Gabrielle Anwar and Bruce Campbell), and a tone that maintains humour while retaining consequence.

And if anything, the latest bump in the road for Michael Weston does all of these things – even if his trips to see his mother remain as pointless as they’ve ever been, Michael being held hostage by Tricia Helfer’s Carla is no more or less dramatic or grave than last season’s various individuals hired to kill our protagonist. For him to completely skirt the obvious danger that a burned agent as himself would be in would be much too unbelieveable.

The show has never been all about accuracy or tonal consistency, rarely proving a slave to what Bianco calls “comedy-tinged mystery.” And while I won’t argue the point that there are dangerous roads to be followed, I will argue that Burn Notice has not taken that exit: it’s still a fun and enjoyable summer series.

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