The Mentalist

Now that we’re a little more house-bound, and unable to pop out to movies on a whim, I’m having to settle for watching television. In South Africa, that’s a frustrating enterprise at best, and there have already been a couple of Stop-Starts – or rather Start-Stops. Fringe was one that had potential then lost my interest. Sanctuary was another; I hardly lasted an episode. (what was that woman from Stargate doing with the bad accent and the worse wig?)

One of the better ones though, and one which continues to peak my curiousity, is The Mentalist. Starring Aussie Simon Baker, the series tracks a division of the California Bureau of Investigations as it works on high-profile murder cases. Baker plays the Mentalist of the title, a consultant to the Bureau who uses mental dexterity, powers of observation, hypnosis and suggestion to get unwilling suspects to spill the beans. Croaky-voiced Robin Tunney, who’s fab (but sadly burdened with too much story-propelling dialogue) is his exasperated boss.

In these days of so-called runaway production (that nasty xenophobic term that’s used to vilify any production that chooses to shoot outside LA), it’s interesting to see a series with a strong Californian story line. Not that there are a great deal of lingering shots to establish location; it’s just that California ends up being mentioned repeatedly. For more accurate info, On Location Vacations tracks where the series is filming each day, when it’s in production.

Given the show’s subject matter, the promo materials are quite cool. Playing upon the theme of mental agility, CBS created three different video spots that test viewers’ ability to be aware of everything that is happening in the videos.  Each video depicts a unique scenario – a card game, a football game and a gathering of security guards – and challenges viewers to watch closely. Designed by Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, the illusions challenge the brain’s instinctual methods of processing motion, form, color, and depth. The one-minute videos were filmed on location in London.