Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pilot Review: Mental

Mental (FOX)
Premiered May 26 at 9pm

I suppose summer just begs for that one pilot that’s entirely laughable, and could never have possibly been taken seriously by anyone at any point in its developmental or broadcast history. FOX already has “House,” and I guess someone thought it would be a good idea to transfer the same general concept to a mental ward. Except instead of a grumpy doctor who is actually brilliant, why not an eccentric out-of-towner who strips naked to bond with a patient on his first day? He’s the kind of free-spirited, new-age thinking man who wants to try shocking and bizarre ways of working with patients that everyone he meets, especially his supervisors, find objectionable and unlikely to succeed. The head nutcase, or rather doctor, is portrayed by Chris Vance, recently character-gone-wrong Whistler on “Prison Break.” Vance, like fellow FOX leading men Hugh Laurie (House) and Tim Roth (Lie to Me), is a Brit, but that doesn’t mean he’s a qualified person to carry a show. He probably is the strongest actor in the cast, but that’s not saying much. Annabella Sciorra, so incredible in her Emmy-nominated guest turn as Tony Soprano’s steak-throwing mistress, continues her endless run of boring and unimpressive performances as a top administrator. The supporting cast is altogether uninteresting, and their sexual tension and secret romances aren’t even engaging for a minute. Casting Silas Weir Mitchell, also known as Michael Scofield’s bonkers cellmate on “Prison Break,” as the token nudist nutty in the pilot doesn’t give this show any brownie points for originality. I can’t imagine any reason to revisit this show; it doesn’t have one creative bone in its body, and crosses the line of believability at almost every opportunity.

How will it work as a series? I’m definitely not up for a second round, but every episode will probably feature a different patient with strange symptoms and an even stranger treatment plan by Vance’s Jack Gallagher. And there’s sure to be some promiscuity among the younger staff members. If it’s not harebrained, it will likely be trite and uninventive.
How long will it last? It’s scheduled to run throughout the whole summer, and FOX doesn’t exactly have anything with which to replace it. The ratings for the premiere episode were decent, but couldn’t compete with CBS repeats. I don’t think FOX will find it necessary to pull the plug prematurely, but don’t expect this one to be back for a second season.

Pilot grade: F

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