The Mentalist (CBS)
Premiered September 23 at 9pm
If you've ever wondered what "Psych" would be like as a drama, here's your answer. Unfortunately, Simon Baker, for all his subdued weirdness, can't compare to James Roday. And this show can't compare to "Psych." It's a blatant rip-off of the "Profiler" setup - a semi-psychic who's not really a psychic but is still really perceptive hunts a serial killer, only to have his beloved ones murdered by that same serial killer for no real reason at all. Now, just like "Psych," he's an occasional consultant to the police force who more often than not is a nuisance to them and solves the case on his own anyway. This pilot had a pretty fast-moving opening with guest turns by Gail O'Grady and Steven Culp, contrasted deeply by a slow-talking, sandwich-eating Simon Baker, who's just bizarre. His methods seem strange, and I find him off-putting most of the time. The rest of the cast is unfortunate as well. I've never liked Robin Tunney from her "Prison Break" days, and she makes a poor team leader. Amanda Righetti is not actually a good actress, but she's had more fun roles in shows like "The O.C." and the abysmal "North Shore." Owain Yeoman had a good role on "The Nine" and I'm not sure why they stuck him with such a pathetic part here. Recently minted Emmy winner Zeljko Ivanek is a decent enough guest star for the pilot. It's just not a terrific show, and I don't think Baker's peculiar air will be enough for it to stand apart from other series.
How will it work as a series? Well, I imagine that the serial killer won't be the focus of every episode, but that could actually be its strongest point. Otherwise, it's a case-by-case basis that could vary by episode, but with Baker and Tunney at the helm, I wouldn't expect much.
How long will it last? I assume that Baker has a contract with CBS, but it should be noted that he has had two series failures in the past. "The Guardian" lasted a few years but petered out quickly, and "Smith" (which I liked a lot) made it only three episodes. It's not quite in the death time slot (10pm on the same night), but I think this may be a one-season wonder.
Pilot grade: C