Mental -- TV Review

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Let's see: A doctor with unconventional methodology and a domineering personality goes to extreme lengths to cure his patients. He has a hot supervisor who supports him, underlings he sends off-grounds to investigate patients' nonmedical histories and even does his own amateur sleuthing.

All this, in Fox's new drama "House."

Sorry. I meant "Mental."

It's been five seasons, so give Fox credit for not having attempted to clone its medical success story before now. And despite the evidence, to compare "Mental" to a head-case version of "House" -- did I forget to mention that both star English-born actors, though Chris Vance ("Prison Break") does not disguise his accent? -- is unfair. To "House," that is.

That's because Vance's Dr. Jack Gallagher, the newly hired director of psychiatric services at L.A.'s Wharton Memorial Hospital, is one of the most deeply irritating television characters ever conceived. He's a trickster with a smug, continual smirk, a direct descendent of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest's" R.P. McMurphy, who figures the mentally ill can just dance (or draw) their cares away. He shuffles cards, winks and says things like, "I've always had brains on the brain." That doesn't make him edgy or brilliant, that makes him sound like a Fuller Brush salesman.

Gallagher's "cases" are plotted out like crimes -- investigation, comprehension, a good sharp dose of reality and folks just get to go home. But by putting mental illness into the compressed timeline of a procedural, creators Deborah Joy LeVine and Dan Levine (the team behind "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman") expect audiences to believe that mental ailments are mere puzzles with logical solutions that can be reasoned out. But mental illness is not something to be jollied out of someone; a diagnosis does not necessarily equal cure -- even if the doctor is a Charming Rogue With Accent (patent pending).

Ultimately, the problem is that while someone's used considerable brain power to put all these pieces together, they clearly just haven't thought things through.

Airdate: 9-10 p.m. Tuesday, May 26 (Fox)
Production: Infinity Features, Fox Television Studios
Cast: Chris Vance, Annabella Sciorra, Jacqueline McKenzie, Derek Webster, Nicholas Gonzalez, Marisa Ramirez
Executive producers: Rob LaBelle, Rob Merilees, Deborah Joy LeVine & Dan Levine
Creator-writer: Deborah Joy LeVine & Dan Levine
Co-executive producer: Alyson Feltes
Producer: Ari Posner, Iain Paterson, Paul D. Goldman, Jon Rosenbaum
Director: Guy Ferland
Director of photography: Reynaldo Villalobos
Production designer: Anthony Medina
Costume designer: Ana Maria Urrea
Casting: Wendy Weidman, Rebecca Mangieri, Barbara Fiorentino
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