Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Concerned about "The Mentalist"

I started watching this because I liked the concept, and became a fan because I liked the concept and Simon Baker, whom I remembered from his earlier TV stint as "The Guardian." Probably the thing I find most appealing about the show is Patrick's hard-ass materialism. As a former phony psychic, he can say "There are no real psychics" and mean it, with a not-at-all-concealed undertone of contempt for the fakes who take money from gullible people who wish that they could communicate with the dead. It was only a few years ago that someone who was only one letter away from running for President was doing this on cable TV. Oh dear, he is still doing it.

So I felt a certain trepidation, a trembling in the Force, as it were, when in episode 7 ("Seeing Red"), a "psychic" presumed to give Patrick a message from his murdered wife, about their murdered child:

What I fear is that Baker's character, Patrick Jane, will "grow," in the way that conservatives "grow in office." I fear that he, having begun as a faker, and having repented of his fakery, will now come to see that the phenomena that he had been faking could actually be real.

I don't want to see this version of Patrick Jane as Houdini the fraud-buster turn into yet another "Touched by an Angel." There's more than enough psychic, spiritual, supernatural silliness in popular entertainment. I'm a science-fiction and fantasy reader from away back, and I love playing with unlikely ideas. As you can tell from my subhead, I enjoy "Buffy the Vampire Slayer;" but that does not mean that I am looking out for vampires, and carrying a stake all the time. I'm also a Sherlock Holmes fan, and Jane is as close to Holmes as I've seen in pop culture for quite a while: the character who is more observant than the rest of us, who can spot the things we don't notice and draw (usually) correct conclusions from subtle clues.

Please, Hollywood; there are angels and psychic phenomena all over TV and the movies, Ghost Whisperers and ghost this and that all over the damn place. Let's keep this one series grounded in material reality. It's just more thoughtful fun without the dei ex machinis showing up to send the plot sideways into woo-woo land.

IF there is more depth to the writing than we usually see in TV-land, AND I am just being affected by my own cynicism about television writing in general, THEN maybe I have misinterpreted this bit. I hope so.

Related: "Patrick Jane, flip-flopper?" Political ad satire.

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