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