Mental -- An early look
During the pilot episode of the new FOX drama Mental, Annabella Sciorra's Dr. Nora Skoff tells Chris Vance's Dr. Jack Gallagher that his recent decision to strip down butt-naked to help a patient deserves some of her Harvard business school advice - ask for royalties because the video of it is sure to be more popular than Paris Hilton's sex tape. To that, I offer some insight from a Syracuse University TV production graduate - there's a reason FOX held off on premiering Mental until the summer. It's not very good.
Let's just get the obvious statement out of the way: Mental desperately wishes it could create the winning formula of House and sadly, it fails miserably. That being said, it was a solid attempt but the glaring similarities kill it fast. Vance plays Dr. Jack Gallagher, a much friendlier version of Greg House. He takes over as department head at the Wharton Memorial Psychiatric Hospital, an institution that looks an awful lot like Princeton-Plainsboro. Seeing a pattern yet?
Gallagher's new job comes complete with an overbearing Cuddy-esque boss in Dr. Nora Skoff (who he may share more of a past with) as well as a couple of underling residents who do nothing but complain when he sends them off hospital campus to investigate a patients home or interview family members. Couple that with Gallagher's extremely cocky, unorthodox techniques and his knack of putting the hospital in the middle of legal cross-hairs and well... sounds just like that other FOX medical drama.
However, I did say it was a solid attempt and after screening the pilot, I will say this - you could do a lot worse for summer TV fare. There are some bright spots. Each new case opens up with some nifty graphics that outline a patients history and in the show's only real attempt at comedic levity, we often get to see what a patient is really thinking via Family Guy or Scrubs-ish "what if" daydreams.
Additionally, while we're left wondering why Gallagher seems so darn perfect and great at his job, it's good to know that even he isn't without some mystery as the pilot ends with some ambiguous information about his family and more specifically, his sister Becky.
Ultimately though, Gallagher seals Mental's own fate when he tells a patient that "getting you home is what this is all about" or, more simply, making you feel better. The same could be said for the home viewer watching in their living room and unfortunately, I don't see Mental or Dr. Jack Gallagher making good on their own mission statement.
Mental premieres on FOX on Tuesday, May 26th at 9:00PM ET.