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October 13, 2015

Rookie sensation: The Mentalist tops the Nielsens

by Allison Waldman, posted Dec 10th 2008 6:02PM
The MentalistIn sports parlance, every now and then a rookie sensation comes along and is an instant success. Like Robert Redford in The Natural, only it's fact and not fiction. In TV parlance, Simon Baker -- who kind of looks like younger Redford (think The Sting and The Way We Were) -- has pulled off a rookie success that makes him look like pure gold.

The latest weekly Nielsen ratings are in and The Mentalist is number one, just slightly ahead of NCIS, with 18.8 million viewers. Simon Baker has a certifiable, solid and probably long-term hit series on his hands, and you know the powers that be at CBS have to be dancing in the corridors at the Black Rock.

I've been a Simon Baker fan since The Guardian, his previous CBS drama series -- the one that ran from 2001-2004, not the high-profile flop, Smith from 2006. The Guardian was a terrific show about Nick Fallin, a former cocaine-addicted lawyer who is atoning for his sins by serving as a reluctant child advocate at Legal Aid Services.
Baker played opposite Dabney Coleman as his father, but for whatever reason, the show never quite found the right spot to take off and thrive on CBS.

Still, the network stuck with it, perhaps out of loyalty to Simon. Then came Smith, in which he was really cast against type, playing an immoral killer. The Mentalist's Patrick Jane seems to fit him like a glove, and -- clearly -- audiences are happy to have him back in prime time.

Sometimes you find yourself rooting for a particular star, monitoring their careers and taking an interest in their success. Simon Baker is one of those for me, so good for him. The Mentalist is a smart, funny sort of procedural and based on these Nielsen numbers, I'm not the only one enjoying it.

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OK, everybody steals from everybody else in Hollywood, and there are very few original concepts (Leverage has been done before, but I still love it). But in all the blogs, posts, critics' columns and certainly the interview with Bruno Heller, I have never seen anyone mention that the concept of The Mentalist is a complete rip-off of Pysch.

Or, did I miss it?

December 11 2008 at 1:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So we have Simon Baker as Robert Redford and Damien Lewis as Steve McQueen. Who we going to get for Paul Newman :)

December 11 2008 at 10:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim Kosmicki

why do people confuse titles like "# 1 show" or "most watched show" with concepts like best quality? Popularity is simply popularity; sometimes it coincides with quality, but not very often. And popularity almost never coincides with quirky.

Life is quirky. The cases are odd, and Charlie is definitely quirky. you have to watch long-term to really get into Life, and most people have no faith in NBC to keep anything on long enough to give it a try. I honestly think that's the reason for the unexpected early comittment to a whole season for Life (and Chuck). NBC wanted to send a signal that it was okay to try the shows -- they weren't going to disappear next week.

So the Mentalist isn't Life. It isn't a lot of other shows, either. The Mentalist is the right show on the right network for it. We watch it in my house, and actually find ourselves picking it rather quickly when it shows up on the DVR queue. Shows like Life or Life on Mars or Pushing Daisies, on the other hand, get watched when we have time to relax and really absorb them. The Mentalist is popcorn, not a substantial meal, but as popcorn, it's very, very nicely done.

And honestly, I think the reason they've avoided Red Jack, other than to make brief mentions is to keep it more of a self-contained show and not more of a serial. Life also made this change this season, with the conspiracy against Charlie in the background in addition to the case of the week, not as the central focus. Now that The Mentalist is a hit and pretty much guaranteed to return, I would imagine the second half of the season will have at least one Red Jack focused episode. The show creators will have earned the right to focus on and develop the mythology after creating a show that supports itself in the ratings first.

December 11 2008 at 9:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I very much agree that Life is the far superior show. Better acting, much better cast chemistry (who even likes the female lead especially compared to Sarah Shahi), quirkier plots. I watch The Mentalist and I have always liked Simon Baker but really - top show?

December 11 2008 at 5:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've been watching the show & while I do enjoy it, I on't think it's anywhere near the best thing on tv right now. Take last night's show, for example: What the hell was that sandcastle building scene all about? Maybe I'm just slow, but it seemed completely out of place & not relevant to anything else in the hour. But, I'd much rather see The Mentalist get the big ratings than some crap like Dancing with the Stars or The Biggest Loser. Talk about a waste of primetime hours!

December 11 2008 at 1:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joey Geraci

People are fundamentally stupid. I know this is not popular to say, but its true. They don't want to think when they watch entertainment. That is why CBS does so well. Not that all their shows are horrible, but most of them are unbelievably formulaic. NBC's are anything but formulaic, and take chances. People don't like something that doesn't fit the mold, that is quirky, and smart.

It's not hard to figure out why CBS does so well.

December 10 2008 at 9:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I loved Smith and really think Simon Baker was great there - a larger than life joyfull assasin. In Mentalist he had a promising start (effectively instructing the woman to kill her husbang) but then the PC started and the show turned to shit.

December 10 2008 at 8:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Sassone

Chris: it was number one for the week.

December 10 2008 at 7:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is just lazy writing. It was the number one show on TUESDAY. Not the number one show for the week as the headline implies.

December 10 2008 at 7:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Love Life's quirky detectives and murders, but I have to admit: I am behind on watching. Love Mentalist's quirkiness too (though I don't see the similarity as much except quirky) and I've been on top of that. I really want to support Simon Baker as well (went back to watch some Guardian episodes). FAbulous stuff.

December 10 2008 at 7:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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