January 17, 2014 4:04pm PT by Michael O'Connell
'Mind Games' Creator Kyle Killen Jokes About Beating the 'Same Dead Horse'
Kyle Killen is hoping the third time is the charm. The writer-producer, who's twice struck out at TV success with Lone Star (Fox) and Awake (NBC), debuts his third series, ABC's Mind Games, on Feb. 25.
Though all dramatically different shows, there is the noticeable through line of central characters struggling with duality. Lone Star's protagonist led a double-life (with two different leading ladies), Awake's lead juggled lives in two different realities and now Mind Games finds onscreen brothers Christian Slater and Steve Zahn playing a con man and a bipolar genius, respectively.
STORY: Inside the Unlucky/Lucky Life of 'Awake' Creator Kyle Killen
Killen's thematic preferences prompted one reporter at Friday's Television Critics Association press tour to ask the creator if he'd learned anything from his past experiences.
"Nope, just the same dead horse," he said.
Certainly funny, there's still a bit of concern about a sliver of truth in the sentiment. Though Killen's work has always been popular with critics, his ratings track record has shown that audiences haven't been particularly turned on by his favored premise.
In Mind Games, Slater and Zahn run a problem-solving business that specializes in psychological manipulation (think a procedural take on Inception, minus the crime). Killen believes the concept is broad enough to bring in a wider audience.
"In terms of the likability of the characters, these are brothers who would like to connect and help people," he said. "We are a ways away from a guy trying to maintain two marriages. It certainly started with the idea of a moral gray area, but this has mainstream [appeal]."
The inherent problems in the brothers' business model is also something that Killen says has become central to the series.
"In a way, this show is about people really underqualified to play god," he added, "but they set up a business to do just that."