Gay is the television critic.
THE SHOW "The Mentalist"
WHEN|WHERE Tonight at 9 on CBS/2
REASON TO WATCH Simon Baker
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Patrick Jane (Baker), our mentalist, is a searing, smart
cop who, from the tiniest details, gleans great cosmic truths about people's
lives and - because he's also a cop - their motives. Comparisons to Sherlock
Holmes are apt, except he's doesn't have his Dr. Watson; Jane's more of a
soloist, a slightly chilled, distant personality who has an uncanny ability to
see into everyone else's heart except his own.
He's suffered a horrific loss - details of which will unfold - and as a
result doesn't want to look too closely inside. (And yes, by now you're
thinking of House, too.) The other cops he works with tolerate Mr. Know-it-all
because he is so bright. Tonight, there's a brutal double homicide that may be
the work of serial killer "Red John," so named because he draws a smiley face
with his victim's blood at each of his crime scenes.
BOTTOM LINE You've got to admire CBS' tenacity with Simon Baker. At least I
do. He's an immensely attractive, telegenic actor who screams out "big star"
in every line on his face, and in every strand of his golden, tousled hair.
First, "The Guardian" - a good show, perhaps even a very good one - then
"Smith" (not bad, either), and now, finally this. Is three Baker's (and CBS')
lucky number? Not sure. His strength can also be his weakness: Remote and
somewhat icy suggests "deep" and "exotic," but also "standoffish."
Tonight's pilot is briskly competent. The formula - must find murderer of
beautiful woman before last commercial break - predates the dinosaurs, but also
incorporates some satisfying twists. Watch by all means - just wear a sweater
when you do.