Another CBS crime drama, "The Mentalist" is not too far removed from a number of other shows in the genre - and even has somewhat direct competition in the form of Fox's "Lie to Me" (and also the somewhat similar USA show, "Psych".) However, "The Mentalist" holds up reasonably well thanks to fine performances and solid writing. It also provides yet another new home for underrated actress Robin Tunney, who continues to deserve her own show.
Created by Bruno Heller (HBO's remarkable "Rome"), the series stars Simon Baker as Patrick Jane, a former stage psychic who is incredibly intuitive, impressing many with his ability to read people. After a tragedy, he joins the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in order to use his talents for good. Yet, while he works for the police, his unorthodox methods and occasionally irreverent attitude does upset his co-workers, such as his boss, Teresa Lisbon (played by Tunney.)
Jane - who is hired by the force as a consultant - is joined by co-workers Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman), Kimball Cho (Tim Kang) and Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti). The core idea of Jane's ability to read people impressing his fellow officers and also irritating them with his irreverent ways is an idea that could become repetitive, but thanks to solid writing and excellent performances from the cast (and Tunney and Baker have nice chemistry together), the series is usually very entertaining.
The second season of the series is an improvement, with the characters becoming noticeably more comfortable in their roles, and the writing is also consistently at a higher level, providing both terrific mysteries and enjoyable character development (as well as further backstory.) Some of the highlights from this season include: "Redemption" (a woman who stole a million from her husband is found suffocated, while Jane decides to stick around in the CBI for another case after the end of the first season), "Red Scare" (the wealthy new owner of an old mansion is thought to have been possibly killed by a supernatural force), "Throwing Fire" (Jane is knocked out by a baseball and has flashbacks of his early years), "Blood Money" (starting with a flash forward, the team captures a suspect in a sting operation) and the finale, "Red Sky in the Morning".
However, it's a credit to Heller that the series manages to work within its frame and not manage to feel as if it's going over the same ground again and again, largely thanks to above-average writing and solid performances, especially from Baker, who - like the rest of the series - manages to get the delicate balance between shifting tones right. There are moments of humor throughout the series, but they don't feel forced or overdone. Overall, this is a crowded genre, but "The Mentalist" has enough going from it to stand out from the pack.
24 2-01 201 24/Sep/09 Redemption
25 2-02 202 01/Oct/09 The Scarlet Letter
26 2-03 203 08/Oct/09 Red Badge
27 2-04 204 15/Oct/09 Red Menace
28 2-05 205 29/Oct/09 Red Scare
29 2-06 206 05/Nov/09 Black Gold and Red Blood
30 2-07 208 12/Nov/09 Red Bulls
31 2-08 209 19/Nov/09 His Red Right Hand
32 2-09 210 10/Dec/09 A Price Above Rubies
33 2-10 207 17/Dec/09 Throwing Fire
34 2-11 211 14/Jan/10 Rose-Colored Glasses
35 2-12 3X5362 21/Jan/10 Bleeding Heart
36 2-13 213 04/Feb/10 Redline
37 2-14 214 11/Feb/10 Blood In, Blood Out
38 2-15 215 04/Mar/10 Red Herring
39 2-16 216 11/Mar/10 Code Red
40 2-17 217 01/Apr/10 The Red Box
41 2-18 218 08/Apr/10 Aingavite Baa
42 2-19 219 22/Apr/10 Blood Money
43 2-20 3X53670 29/Apr/10 Red All Over
44 2-21 3X5371 06/May/10 18-5-4
45 2-22 3X5372 13/May/10 Red Letter
46 2-23 3X5373 20/May/10 Red Sky in the Morning
VIDEO: "The Mentalist" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality is generally quite good, as the show's fine visual style is done justice by the crisp, clean and detailed transfer. Sharpness and detail are a tad weaker during some of the low-light sequences, but otherwise the picture remained well-defined.
A couple of slight traces of pixelation were spotted, but no edge enhancement was seen and the source material remained clear throughout. Colors looked bold and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The show is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The show's audio is pretty decent for a television program. Surrounds aren't put into terribly aggressive use, but the rear speakers do come into play on a couple occasions during many episodes to deliver some nicely placed sound effects or ambience. Audio quality remained superb, as sound effects and dialogue remained crisp and seemed well-recorded.
EXTRAS: "Mentalism: A Subliminal Art" and "The Art of the Mentalist" featurettes, as well as 5 deleted scenes.
Final Thoughts: "The Mentalist" doesn't venture too far from the expected (and two other, similar shows can be found elsewhere), the series does manage to stand out thanks to fine writing and a few very good lead performances. The DVD set provides solid audio/video quality, as well as a few nice extras. Recommended.