Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Mentalist


I have finally caught up with a successful, newish American crime series – well, by watching one episode of The Mentalist, anyway. And it was, I think, the first episode of the series proper following the pilot. The starting point is the discovery of a young woman’s murdered body, and the trail soon leads to the restaurant where she worked.

The mentalist of the title is Patrick Jane, played by Simon Baker. He is loosely attached to the California Bureau of Investigation, and uses his observation power sto assist in the detection of crime. The senior cop is Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) and her team includes a young cop who understandably fancies a very attractive colleague. In this episode, the script was taut, although there was no real explanation of what motivated the crazed killers. The pace was brisk, and the characterisation of the detectives sound. Patrick hypnotised a witness into revealing information, whioch was a bit of a cheat, but overall, I enjoyed it and would be very glad to watch the show again in future.

What struck me most forcibly was the fact that the premise of the brilliant, wayward sleuth is essentially an updating of Sherlock Holmes – yet another tribute to the brilliance of Conan Doyle’s creation. We have seen so many of these maverick superstars of detection over the years, but their appeal never seems to fade, and why should it? My favourite in recent years has to be Jonathan Creek, but even he is, really, a modern version of earlier magician detectives such as Clayton Rawson’s The Great Merlini. Truly, with crime fiction, there is nothing new under the sun.

10 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Martin - A very apt comparison! Conan Doyle really was a brilliant writer and his Sherlock Holmes has profoundly affected us in many ways. This is just one of them. As I think about the effects the Holmes stories have had on us, I also see a great number of cultural allusions and metaphors, too, that are closely related to the stories. For instance, I've heard people's assistants referred to as their "Watsons." Yet another example of the power of one person's creation.

seana said...

I love Simon Baker--his earlier show, The Guardian was one of my favorite television shows ever, but the writing on this one is bad. I watch it fairly often, hoping against hope that the storyline has improved, but though it's marginally better, and you do get more involved with the investigating team, afterwards I always have a feeling of having been sucked in and duped. I'd really like to like this show better than I do, but all it does is make me wish again that they hadn't cancelled The Guardian. Baker's an excellent actor, given the right vehicle.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

This is one of those shows that I keep MEANING to watch...thanks for reminding me, Martin! I'll set it to TiVo...

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Ann Elle Altman said...

I love the show. And you're right, he's like Sherlock Holmes, he'll even get down on his hands and knees to examine the crime scene. Great writing. I've recently started watching, no, I've finished watching all the episodes of Jonathan Creek. I like how he solves his crimes. I originally watched Creek because of Caroline Quintin of Blue Murder fame but the locked room puzzles really drew me in.

Have you seen the series?

ann

pattinase (abbott) said...

I like him very much but it suffers from the same formulaic plotting so many shows suffer from. The writing needs to step it up a notch. Jonathan Creek was better if I remember it correctly.

seana said...

Jonathan Creek was indeed better. I agree that the writing needs to be stepped up a notch. Sadly, though, I think its mediocrity is exactly why it will keep going.

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, as you say, the concept of the Watson has become significant in the genre, although arguably the role of the Watson has changed over the years - for instance, they seldom act as admiring narrators nowadays.

Martin Edwards said...

I haven't seen The Guardian, Seana, and I don't know whether it's been shown in the UK (maybe it has and I just haven't spotted it in the schedules).

Martin Edwards said...

Jonathan Creek is, I think, quite exceptional. To combine wit and ingenuity so consistently is rare in modern tv screenplay writing. I'm looking forward eagerly to the new episode, which I gather is due around Easter.

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