TV Improvement: The Mentalist

Welcome to the latest installment of TV Improvement. Since I tackled a well received CBS show last week, I figured I would try out another. If nothing else, I hope I can rile you guys up some more with some of my ideas to improve The Mentalist.

Continuing with the common theme from the first four weeks of TV Improvement, The Mentalist is a show that I enjoy watching. I have not missed in an episode in its nearly 4 seasons. The show features a dynamic lead character who has serious acting chops. Simon Baker can emote, be funny, and play off of other characters very well. It’s a standout performance. It bothers me that Baker can’t even sneak in an Emmy nomination.

That being said, there are several things about this show that really irk me. I thought I would tackle a few of them today. Let’s start with the thing that bothers me the most.

Get rid of Grace Van Pelt

For the first few years of The Mentalist‘s run, I had some serious issues with the quality of the writing. I was all-in with Baker, but I wished the writers would clean it up a bit. The supporting characters needed heavier scenes to chew on. The dialogue they were given left them little room to operate.

However, I have come to realize that the writing seems so rudimentary because the supporting characters are so limited. All of them have some limitations, but Amanda Righetti may be the worst of the bunch. Watching her work some of these scenes that are centered around her can be paaaaainful. It’s tough to write for someone who can’t act. This season’s arc where she has been trying to move on from the tragic events involving her fiancee/Red John sympathizer has not done anything to change my opinion.

She doddled around for the first few weeks with a look on her face that made it seem like she always smelled poop. Now, she’s supposed to play the detached, emotionally-scarred person who cares a lot less and lives more dangerously. Unfortunately for the writers, she can’t handle it. There’s a reason why she has faded so distantly into the background.

Jane, Jane, and more Jane

I don’t disapprove of all of the supporting characters on The Mentalist. I think Lisbon and Cho have some nice moments. They do a great job with guest stars (we’ll get to that shortly). Still, I feel like we need even more Jane than we already get. Because of the limitations of the supporting actors, Jane has to carry the show. The writers know this fact, but they still can’t resist giving an episode that puts more of the focus on Rigsby, Cho, Lisbon, or Van Pelt.

To me, these episodes are borderline unwatchable. Everybody who watches the show loves Jane, and most (like me) simply tolerate the other pieces. Let Simon Baker carry the show. You won’t be disappointed. Something about dancing and the person that brought you applies here.

More guest stars

As mentioned above, The Mentalist does a really nice job with their guest stars. Everytime they bring on a bigger name, they have more chemistry with Simon Baker than most of the rest of the cast (with the exception of Lisbon…maybe). Malcolm McDowell (more on him later, too) and Morena Baccarin recently appeared on the show and dominated the episode.

I can’t remember a single line of dialogue from the rest of the cast except for those guys and Baker. It was absolutely fantastic. They need to embrace their role as a place where big guest stars can go to get a quick payday and get scene by roughly 10-15 million eyeballs. When you get performances like the recent ones from Baccarin and McDowell, it’s tough to argue with this idea. Speaking of McDowell…

Put the Red John thing to bed

I haven’t liked where we have gone with Red John this season. I was right there with Jane when he shot and killed the man he believed was Red John last season. It was the perfect culmination of Jane’s conquest for revenge. Simon Baker played that scene perfectly, and Bradley Whitford wasn’t bad either. That’s where it should have ended. The show should have gone on, of course, but the Red John angle should have been done. It was the perfect ending. Naturally, we decided to bring back for one more run.

That being said, I think it’s time for a new main antagonist. I would like to propose Malcolm McDowell’s Bret Stiles and the gang at Visualize to take over that role. It would be a battle that could carry the show for seasons, and would make for some great moments between Baker and McDowell.

There you have it: A few ideas to make one of TV’s most widely watched shows even more watchable. Now it’s your turn. What do you guys think, if anything, can be done to make The Mentalist a little better? Let me know in the comments below.

The TV Czar

Follow me on Twitter @TVCzar

  • JeannieB38

    I couldn’t disagree more.  This season has been painful because of inconsistent writing. The “Jane” show is boring because what attracted me to this show is the ensemble and how they interact as a group. I miss the flirtation between VanPelt and Rigsby.  Breaking them up was a mistake because they have obvious chemistry together. Neither of their new partners has worked. This “baby” storyline has felt more like an episode of “The Young and the Restless” than my show. Cho has become a caricature of himself. Why would an obviously intelligent man date a sleaze like Summer? His last girlfriend was the elegant and classy Elise. And don’t get me started on the drug use. How cliche can you get?
    My fear is that this show will become like every other cop show on TV. We have enough of those violent and gory police procedurals. As much as I love Patrick Jane and his antics, he will never get his emmy if they keep up like this. Lisbon deserves more as well. I like her sparing with Walter Mashburn. This show is in danger of commiting the ultimate TV sin: Boring it’s audience. My hope is that they turn this ship back on course and bring back “The Mentalist” that we all know and love. One thing the writer’s and producer’s must realize is that it is a 500+ channel universe out there. If you lose your audience it as awful tough to get them back. Just my thoughts..

    • Anonymous

      To each their own on the Rigsby and Van Pelt thing.  I figured that would be a contentious point.

      I can’t even make any sense of the Cho thing.  That’s why I didn’t cover it.  I knew I would be too busy spilling out angry curse words on the page.

      The Mentalist is quite formulaic.  However, what sets it apart from others in my mind is the charisma of Simon Baker.  It definitely comes off as ludicrous at various times, but Jane rarely steers you wrong.

      Just curious, how would you describe “The Mentalist that we all know and love”?

  • Ajb2643

    The supporting characters are meant to assist Jane in breaking the rules-like in the beginning. The more time they spend in scenes helping him the better fit/enjoyment for those roles. The team needs to stay intact though…agree with the rest. Done with Red John and Simon Baker is the key to whole show.

  • Hollygolightly2010

    Agreed. The only other things that would make this show perfect besides the suggestions would be Jane and Lisbon getting together.

    • Anonymous

      Interesting idea.  I can’t say that I am a big fan of Lisbon and Jane coming together.  I like the idea that Jane can’t be with someone because he is so broken.  Maybe once the Red John thing gets put to bed, he can open up a bit, but until then, I think it’s best to keep him single.

  • Gioconda

    I agree that Lisbon and Jane should remain coworkers with their flirty edge.  So much more interesting than an overt love affair.  The writing has gone off since the finale that drained the momentum of the Red John chase.  Rigsby is a complete idiot and Van Pelt seems like a fifth wheel.  I’ve always liked Cho, especially since the episode about his gang past, which was moving.  I would welcome more of Malcolm McDowell, who plays his part with style and command. 
    What did you think of “Flashing Red Light”, when Jane used Red John to kill off a killer he couldn’t catch?  Do you think Jane is becoming too manipulative and amoral?  Or do you like him that way?

    • Anonymous

      I love morally ambiguous Jane.  It’s one of my favorite aspects of his personality.  I’ve never been a big fan of the superhero good guys.  I like them to have a little bit of an edge.

  • Guest

    I respect opinions, but I completely disagree with this article, basically. Yes Van Pelt has her annoying moments, but she serves a purpose. She’s a damaged character that has actually developed a lot more this season then any other season thus far. And as far as not focusing on the OTHER characters of this show and it all being about Jane – just no. I love Jane, I do, but I would really like to know about the other characters as well. Not just Jane. Jane is the focus of the show yes, but many people adore the side characters as well. Lisbon, for example, is a huge part of the fan base. You see less and less of her, they lose fans. And many people also love the team as a whole. Also if you focus less on the side characters themselves – Jane doesn’t really have a purpose for being at the CBI at all, if he is always alone. That’s silly. More guest stars? Sure. Why not? But if all this show was, was recurring guest stars like Erica Flynn or Brett Stiles – I’d get bored. I want to see just the team and Jane sometimes. I don’t always need to see Jane’s relationships with others. We get a lot of that when they do cases anyway. And as far as the Red John storyline being put to bed. I disagree. Jane is the main character of this show for sure, but the main reason that this show was developed in the first place was because his character is out to catch this serial killer. Yes the season three finale was amazing, but if he killed off the real Red John right then and there – what purpose would the show have? And frankly, what purpose would Jane have to continue to work at the CBI? That’s just silly to me. You may not like where the Red John plot is headed and that is fine, but the creator has said that the Red John storyline is a series ender not a season ender. 

    • Guest

      It is rather illogical to damn the side characters for being uninteresting, then ask that the writers ignore them even more.  The CBI is a team and Jane’s interaction with them is a major part of the show, so I agree with you, Guest, that the show needs more team development, not less.

      • Anonymous

        I don’t think I was illogical at all.  If they aren’t going to be interesting, then get rid of them or use them only when necessary.

    • Anonymous

      I’m fine with Lisbon and Cho.  My main issue with Van Pelt is that Amanda Righetti is not a good actress.  I don’t mind the part, but it’s clear the writers don’t know how to write for it and Righetti can’t take it anywhere.  

      The side characters will always have their place.  My main point with more Jane was simply the focus of the episode.  When the focus shifts away from Jane, I lose interest.  I’ll agree that some people like the supporting characters.  To each their own on that one as well.  Maybe my real beef is with the writers abilities to make these people compelling in any way possible.

      Finally, about the Red John thing: I watch The Mentalist because Simon Baker does Simon Baker things.  I don’t think the disappearance of Red John would hurt the show in my eyes.  Perhaps in some others, but not me.

      As I said before, to each their own.  Thanks for commenting.

      • Johnson1

        Well, that’s your opinion that Amanda Righetti isn’t a good actress. I think she is, and she especially handled her storylines this year quite well. Not sure what you have against her. 

        • Anonymous

          Well, it’s obviously personal between me and her.

          In all seriousness, I think she struggles to accurately portray human emotion.  To me, when she has to emote, it comes off as strange or fake.  Her reactions or behavior can appear childlike at times.  In addition, she doesn’t really get involved with the conversation that she is having.  She is simply waiting until it is her turn to talk instead really trying to listen and be a part of the conversation.

          All that being said, she’s definitely nice to look at.  So she’s got that going for her… which is nice.

          • Damn it! Now I see what you saying about her. This will change my outlook on her character. Damn you TVCzar, Damn you for making me see things in a new light. 😉

          • Johnson1

            To be 
            fair, I think she has a lot of silly exposition lines on the show that are just hard to “act” at all. I’ve seen Righetti in a new TV 
            film the other day – called Dangerous Attraction I think – and her acting was much more, well, fluid and natural.

            I think Robin Tunney’s the worst actor on the show, actually. 

            • Anonymous

              Late to the discussion, but I totally agreed about Tunney. I like her well enough but I can’t buy her as any sort of authority figure, at all. I actually thought (and maybe still think) that Van Pelt could be related to the whole Red John storyline somehow, and that this explains the oddness of her interactions with some of the characters and the general coolness she has when emoting.

  • Anonymous

    I loved your article and agree with some of your ideas. I especially want to see Jane have a love interest. I don’t think it should be Lisbon. With no disrespect to Baker’s co-stars, I have often said that
    without Simon the show would not have lasted as long as it has.

  • Abby22

    Interesting points. 
    Here’s my take on the whole thing: 
    1) Grace/Amanda is not a good actress. I agree. The poor thing just is not very good at showing emotion and making it believable. Look at this clip from the O.C. (…See, I don’t even believe that she thinks Julie is a whore, I think she read on her notes that Julie was supposed to be a whore. BUT, there has to be some reason why she’s an actress and I’m not… 
    2) There’s no mistaking that the scenes with Jane are the most interesting. I’d open that up to Lisbon too because I really like her. That being said, I think those ancillary characters are necessary, not on their own, but so Jane and Lisbon can have regular people to interact with. I love Cho (when he’s being a bad-ass, not when he’s in love with a call girl and popping pills), and I believe that Rigsby may annoy me far worse than Grace, but they serve the purpose of being the regular cast that Jane and Lisbon interact with and have relationships with. 
    3) Guest stars are great, but I agree with someone else’s comment that it gets old to try to meet someone new (in addition to the people with the case) every episode. 
    4) REALLY? I agree that the season finale was epic, but after he shot “Red John” my first thought was, “Wait, what happens now?.” Jane is there to seek revenge, if it’s done, then he has no reason to stick with the CBI. I think the Red John story line has to continue, but I think they need to make up their minds with it. It either plays a prominent role in the story, like in the past, OR they develop a new villain to keep us occupied and Red John shows up periodically.  

  • SaAm

    Completely agree with the article. The show is Jane and those who follow the show from episode 1 are fans of Jane. I think fans of Lisbon have appeared much later, especially from season 3, and their fans are fans deLisbon but I think they are fans of the show. Most of them do not even understand the show. The Mentalist is becoming more and more boring because the secondary characters have more screen time but they have no interest. I love all the actors of The Mentalist, but I do not care if Rigsby is going to have a child or if Van Pelt has personal problems because they have no charisma and this is not Grey’s Anatomy

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for all the comments, guys.  Who would have thought that The Mentalist would be quite so divisive?

  • Royal Chapman

    Enough of Red John. It’s all red herrings and confusion and
    a storyline that is going nowhere. The only purpose of the storyline is to
    cultivate constant viewers, repeated eyeballs to return every week. The show is
    good enough to have a solid story each week wrapped up in the hour. The
    characters are developed enough and can have their own continuing relationship
    story lines. NOT relationships with each other. AND don’t ever have Lisbon and Jane
    get together. It’s stupid. It’s happened in other shows and you know already,
    it’s a show killer. But please, enough with the idiotic Red John line; enough already.

  • Tkbird45

    I actually disagree alot with what you say. I personally believe that the Jane time is perfect, it needs more time from Lisbond, Cho, Rigsby, and Van Pelt.

    We’ve already developed quite a bit of a back story for cho. I’m ignoring him for that reason. We don’t have all the facts for either VanPelt or Lisbond. I’ve been watching the Re-Runs on TNT. I just recently watched one where they were in a biochemical research center. When Lisbond was talking about her brother, there was more development I could see behind that.

    VanPelt I feel like her story is not developed at all, she’s a blank card as far as I can tell. She needs to be with Rigsby, we all realize that.

    Red John is actually what this whole show is about, is it not? If you settle this whole “Red John thing” like you say, then this just turns into anoter CSI sort of show. And we all know what happened to all of those Spin offs and remakes. The whole on the edge of your seat feeling you get when Jane learns new clues about Red John are exactly the reasons why you watch the show. (Give or take Jane’s ,more often than not, hilarious antics)

    One issue I do have, it the whole Lisbond and Jane making Subtle hints to each other…they are meant to flirt with each other, but they should not be together! If that was the case let’s make VanPelt the mentalist and partner her with Rigsby and they can make out all episode! Yay….no just no. Their is a certain point that the writers can hit and not pass, and this is one of them.

    Sorry for ranting, and taking up blog space.

  • Dorismckenna

    Amanda Righetti Cannot act, Robin Tunney cannot walk due to her tight pants, and Simon Baker’s hair
    gets more attention than anything on the show.

  • lkjhgfdsa

    I have never disageed with every single thing in an article until now. Wow. If they changed the show the way you wanted them to there would be no show.

  • Musicon HaidaGwaii

    Amanda Righetti is such a bad actress that I Googled “Amanda Righetti is a bad actress” and this is what came up. She cannot convincingly portray anything other than pretension and comes accross as a sanctimonious, talentless hack. I do like her hair though. It has more charisma than she does.