Archive for June 10th, 2009

Mental: A pretty face can’t save the whole show

mentalIf I weren’t (barely) a TV blogger, I would have no idea that there was a show on TV called Mental.

No, not The Mentalist. Just Mental.

As it turns out, there is such a show. And it’s on FOX.  And it’s incredibly average.

Mental centers around psychologist Jack Gallagher (Chris Vance), the new head of psychiatric services who (predictably) doesn’t play by the rules and throws caution to the wind. In his first scene on the pilot episode, Jack gets naked in front of the entire hospital staff in an effort to settle down an unruly mental patient.  Later, he breaks into a patient’s house to learn more about his condition.

He’s a good guy with bad boy tendencies… blah blah heartthrob blah.

Mental isn’t truly awful — but it is aggressively mediocre. Chris Vance’s handsome face and impish smirk  almost make up for the fact that his character — despite it all — hasn’t proven himself worthy of being the centerpiece of a medical drama. For a show that stakes a lot around the eccentric personality of its lead character, you’d think he’d have a few other quirks to spice up the character — that is, other than a general problem with authority and dislike of the doing things the old-fashioned way. I’m not saying that he should have an addiction to painkillers (like half of all TV doctors), but maybe spice up him up with a dark secret. (Not really a spoiler alert: he does have an ambiguous phone call at the end of the episode. It’s not that interesting either.)

Side note: Gallagher (and by Gallagher, I mean Chris Vance) resembles a less haggard-looking Jason Bateman with a gym body and jeans that fit him really well. Perhaps Michael Bluth’s lost twin brother who became a personal trainer in London (oh yeah, he’s English).

The pilot episode of Mental sets the stage for some predictable conflicts. There’s the buttoned up Dr. Veronica Hayden-Jones (the hyphenated last name, presumably, indicates her stubborn nature) — who colors within the lines and uses tried-and-true psychological techniques to get results. The way they’ve set up the show, the conflict between Veronica and Jack will likely play out in really obvious ways. She doesn’t want to take a risk, he wants to jump in head-first with wild theories.

It’s pretty black and white. She’s the Scully, he’s the Mulder. She’s the Felix, he’s the Oscar.

Besides Jack and Veronica, there’s a rather forgettable supporting cast. Two hot latin residents forge a forced sexual tension (well, he likes her — she won’t come around til the end of the season, most likely). A hospital administrator (who won’t put up with any more of his shennanigans!) has a briefly mentioned cancer backstory, but I was too distracted by the actress’ wooden delivery to be truly moved. There’s also some foreshadowed mischief with a doctor who asks Jack if he can keep a certain degree of “autonomy” in his work — leading us to believe he has a testing facility full of schizophrenic patients he uses as guinea pigs.

Mental is on FOX Tuesdays at 9. Which means you just missed it last night.  Sorry.  I guess it might be worth watching if you’re really into medical shows (in which case, you’ll probably be better off getting into Nurse Jackie).

4 comments June 10th, 2009


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