EmptyAirdate: 9-10 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23 (CBS)
Finally, a cop show for skeptics.
Although USA's "Psych" merely hints at the possibility that some psychics could be frauds, CBS' "The Mentalist" argues forcefully that self-proclaimed seers (and you know who you are, Jonathan Edwards and Allison DuBois) are as supernaturally gifted as pet rocks.
"There's no such thing as real psychics," says Patrick Jane, who used to make a handsome living pretending to be one while fooling gullible people with his keen powers of observation. Those who profess to have psychic powers, he continues, are "deluded or dishonest."
The dialogue comes during one of Jane's rare moments of candor. Mostly, this reformed psychic-turned-police detective played by Simon Baker is glib, cocky, spirited and irrepressible. Although Jane is technically part of a five-person homicide unit and subordinate to Robin Tunney's Teresa Lisbon, the show rests squarely and firmly on his shoulders.
Baker, as we quickly see, is capable of carrying the load. Jane is a clever blend of characters he played on "The Guardian" and "Smith." This role is tailor-made for Baker, who has a flair for playing irreverent characters who are crucial to the success of the system even as they tweak its authority figures.
In addition to "Psych," the show invites comparison to NBC's "Life." Although Jane is not nearly as quirky as Damian Lewis' Charlie Crews, both detectives are driven to find out who killed people once close to them. In Jane's case, his wife and daughter were shot by a serial killer he had disparaged during his phony psychic days.
"The Mentalist" has an appealing low-tech approach to crime-solving. Jane's unit, the California Department of Investigation, might get a few facts from an autopsy, but Jane invariably carries the day by spotting clues and applying logic. At the same time, the show benefits from the lively direction of executive producer David Nutter, who time and again makes even ordinary scenes jump off the printed page.
Competition will be keen. "The Mentalist" will butt heads with Fox's well-received "Fringe" and the results show of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." But if any show fits seamlessly between "NCIS" and "Without a Trace," this is it.
Production: Warner Bros. Television. Cast: Simon Baker, Robin Tunney, Tim Kang, Owain Yeoman, Amanda Righetti, Tim Guinee, Zeljko Ivanek, Gail O'Grady, Jeffrey Nordling, Steven Culp.
Executive producers: Bruno Heller, David Nutter. Producer: Charlie Goldstein. Director: David Nutter. Writer-creator: Bruno Heller.
Director of photography: Bill Roe.
Production designer: Michael Novotny.
Editors: Paul Karasick, David Ekstrom.
Music: Blake Neely.
Set decorator: Bryan Thetford.
Casting: Robert Ulrich, Eric Dawson, Carol Kritzer.