Category Archives: TV Reviews

Television: The Mentalist: Simon Baker Sees Stuff You Don’t!

Have you ever wondered what the series Psych would be like if it had been played as a drama? It might well have looked like The Mentalist [CBS, Tuesdays, 9/8C], a series about Patrick Jane, a former fraud television psychic who makes a major career change after a performance on a talk show takes a nasty turn.

mentalist - baker & tunney

The premiere finds Jane, who is now working for the California Bureau of Investigation, solving a murder in the opening minutes by simply, as he puts it, “paying attention.” His methods, being somewhat unorthodox, his boss, Teresa Lisbon [Robin Tunney], suspends him – but a new set of murders appears to strike home to him and he goes over her head to get back on the case.

Judging by the premiere, The Mentalist is one of those shows that seem like it’s going to go one way and then, BAM! It’s snuck up on you and grabbed you by the throat! Unlike Psych, which places the humor upfront, The Mentalist seems like it’s going to be deadly earnest – and mostly, it is – but at key moments, shrewdly placed bits of gallows humor serve to both emphasize the drama and relieve the carefully built up tension.

David Nutter, a true king of the pilots [Millennium, Roswell, Dark Angel, Smallville, and Without a Trace, among them], really has a handle on Bruno Heller’s [Touching Evil, Rome] excellent script. Some of the key moments are [deliberately] predictable in order to set up the ones that aren’t – and he draws series defining performances from an ensemble that also includes Owain Yeoman [Kitchen Confidential, The Nine], Amanda Righetti [The O.C., Reunion] and Tim Kang [Third Watch, Rambo].

The Mentalist may be the series that gives Simon Baker the hit his talent and charisma deserve – and with its NCIS lead-in, it’s positioned well. The fact that it’s a police show – if not exactly a procedural – means that it takes a different tone than NCIS, but its quality should hold that show’s audience.

TELEVISION: Eureka Kicks Off Season Three With A Bang!

When Eureka [Tuesdays, Sci Fi, 9/8C] returns for its third season, tomorrow night, it will feature a number of big bangs – and not just from the scientific menace. Bad to the Drone will feature [among other things]: Allison’s [Sally Richardson-Whitfield] answer to ex-husband Nathan Stark’s [Ed Quinn] proposal; an efficiency expert, Eva Thorne aka The Fixer [Frances Fisher], whose mandate is to stop the town’s financial woes by helping/forcing Global Dynamics to find ways to turn their top-secret projects into merchandise; and a terrific riff on the Robert Sheckley short story classic, Watchbird – and all of these threads combine to create more problems for Sheriff Jack Carter [Colin Ferguson].


Other plot points include Zoe’s [Jordan Hinson] part-time job and Henry’s [Joe Morton] incarceration for treason – not to mention Deputy Jo Lupo’s [Erica Cerra] difficulty in finding a suitable romantic counterpart. Then there’s the problem posed by the town’s most popular eatery [plus, we learn how it’s possible for Cafe´ Diem to serve whatever the customer wants – no matter how bizarre or obscure…].

For a breezy, light summer series, Eureka continues to be as Calvin used to say, “Just packed!” Somehow, though, director Bryan Spicer manages to shoehorn in all of writer Jaime Paglia’s script without making the ep seem either too busy or too forced. Something else that comes through – and very plainly – is the enthusiasm the cast has for the show. Their performances [especially Colin Ferguson’s as the sheriff and a very concerned father] are as good here as they’ve ever been.

Upcoming eps see The Fixer’s particular expertise rendered useless when the inhabitants of a Global Dynamics biosphere begin evolving in reverse; Zoe beginning her accelerated physics program; the annual dog show growing more competitive than usual, and there appears to be an earthquake. Seems like just another season in Eureka.

Final Grade: B+

TELEVISION: Mr. Monk Buys a House To Open Season Seven

When Monk returns this evening [USA, 9/8C], the emphasis is not on the mystery – which would normally not be worthy of Adrian Monk’s [Tony Shalhoub] attention – rather, the main subject is dealing with the loss of a friend. On the show, Monk’s therapist, Dr. Charles Kroger [Stanley Kamel] has passed away because of a heart attack.

When Monk buys a house to get away from a neighbor child who plays Chopin incessantly, a potential new therapist, Dr. Neven Bell [Hector Elizondo] suggests that it might be because he misses his late friend – who also loved Chopin – a suggestion that has Monk suggesting he needs a different therapist.

Monk's New House

While shopping for a shower head – with one hundred holes, no less – a handyman named Jake [Brad Garrett] suggests he could drill a couple extra holes in it for home. In no time, Jake is finding flaws in the house and Monk looks like he’s fallen into a money pit. Then something happens to tie in the “renovations” to the death of the house’s previous owner.

By playing against the model puzzle mystery of the usual Monk episode, Mr. Monk Buys a House proves to be one of the better season premieres for the long-running cult hit. More than usual, the ep deals with that side of Monk’s character we’ve usually only gotten to see in his relationship with Natalie [Traylor Howard] – that part of Monk that is capable of great friendship. Because of the sincerity of the ep – and the final scene, which ties into a dedication to Mr. Kamel – an ep that could have come off as soppy, is, instead, genuinely poignant [something you don’t get everyday in series TV].

Garrett and Elizondo are both very good, but the ep belongs to Tony Shalhoub, who makes the OCD Monk even more vulnerable than we’ve seen him in the past – and that’s a pretty difficult feat! Monk has been up and down in quality over the last few seasons, but as Mr. Monk Buys a House illustrates, when it’s on, it’s still capable of a quiet brilliance.

Final Grade: B+

TELEVISION: Psych Returns With Big Surprises For Shawn!

When the third season premiere of Psych [USA, Fridays, 10/9C] airs this evening, pseudo-psychic Shawn Spencer [James Roday] is going to be thrown for a loop in ways he never anticipated. First, off, his best and partner in the Psych detective agency, Gus [Dule´ Hill] is basically given the choice of staying with the agency and losing his highly remunerative day job, or keeping his day job and quitting Psych. Second, his mother, Madeline [Cybill Shepherd] is in town – and his father [Corbin Bernsen] knew she was coming. To further complicate matters, the CEO [Christopher McDonald] of the company where Gus works has a haunting problem – the kind of case that only Shawn and Gus can handle.

As in Psych’s lead-in, Monk, this evening’s case isn’t the primary focus of the ep – The Ghost in You. Sharp-eyed viewers will notice something unusual in the way that Shawn’s investigative scenes are shot that is integral to the case’s solution. But what really matters in the way that Shawn’s relationship with his father is challenged by the arrival of Madeline – but her impact isn’t just on the Spencer men.

Gus & Shawn

It seems that Madeline is a psychologist who used to work with the police department. She has returned to not only visit Henry and Shawn, but to see if Detective Carlton Lassiter [Tim Omundson] is fit for duty. The sparring between them is quite literally priceless.

While Psych initially seemed like a series based on a gimmick, it has become a dependable source of entertainment because its writers know just when to lay off the shtick and spring a dramatic moment on us. The Ghost in You is no exception. Between trying to figure out how to keep Gus involved in the agency, without getting him fired at this day job – and dealing with the emotional rollercoaster ride that his mother’s surprise [to him] visit produces – as well as the agency’s latest case, we get to see sides of Shawn that we don’t usually see [which ties in, thematically with the Monk premiere that precedes it].

The Ghost in You is a solid ep that allows Roday and Hill to do their Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor of detectives thing to full advantage, while giving the show’s guest and supporting cast an opportunity to add texture and colors to the proceedings. It may because of the unusual shift of focus, but this is one of the best eps of the series, to date.

Final Grade: A-

The Tellybox: Doctor Who – "Stolen Earth": Companions and Continuity

                  Doctor and Companions


A week may be a long time in politics, but for the millions of fans of Doctor Who, this coming week is likely to be a very long week in the Who-verse.    I’m not going to spoil that "To Be Continued" cliff-hanger (and boy, what a cliff-hanger!) at the end of series 4’s penultimate episode "Stolen Earth"; it’s too brilliant a piece of television to want to give the game away.  Just watch it and enjoy the episode when it comes your way and gasp along with the rest of the audience.   There is no trailer for next week either, so the producers really are keeping everything tightly under their Welsh hats.

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TELEVISION: In Plain Sight by Sheldon Wiebe

I suppose it was inevitable that someone would devise a series like In Plain Sight [ISA 10/9C], about the trials and tribulations of a U.S. Federal Marshall who works with the Witness Protection Program. Such a series means that we have a widely varied series of people who have only one thing in common: somebody wants them dead… Mary Shannon [Mary McCormack] and her partner, Marshall Mann [Frederick Weller] are the marshals in question and it’s she who is focal point of the series.

Mary is a brusque, sarcastic bulldozer of woman, though you wouldn’t know it to look at her – but once she starts talking… Her partner is maybe as smart as her but he’s considerably more laid back. This is because he doesn’t have to deal with her deranged family – mother, Jinx [Lesley Anne Warren] and younger sister, Brandy [Nicole Hiltz]. Neither is employed – though Jinx tries her hand at an Avon lady-type job in the premiere. Then there’s Mary’s overworked boss, Stan McQueen [Invisible Man’s Paul Ben-Victor], who is usually not sure he wants to know about her cases – as long as they work out.


In the premiere, In Plain Sight, we meet Mary on a reasonably good day [which is to say she hasn’t had to tear a strip off anyone… yet]. That’s before she has to deal with Frankie Amato and his family. Frankie was caught red-handed after a hit and turned informant to stay out of jail. The problem comes when Frankie’s son is killed – after the family was placed in the program. “Hoosier Daddy” finds Mary dealing with a ten-year old boy who witnessed his mother’s murder and agrees to testify against the killer[s] – the kicker being that his father is one of them! In Iris Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, she has to deal with a black family whose patriarch refuses to follow the rules because he worked hard to become what he is – no matter what danger that might put his family in.

The series is terrific when it deals with Mary’s job. The people she works with, and the people she has to place in new lives, are all fascinating. These parts of the show are well written, move briskly and have some marvelous – if black – humor. Where the show loses steam, is with Mary’s family – and her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Raphael [Christian de la Fuente]. Jinx is so badly written that even I, who love Lesley Anne Warren, want to see her die horribly. Brandy is Jinx, only younger. If an intelligent thought were to cross either woman’s mind, she’d have a seizure! Raphael is, so far, just eye candy for the female audience, and the only thing we know about him is that he’s good in bed – but is man enough to “have a headache” when he doesn’t feel like performing.

If Mary’s family gets a little – okay, a lot – more depth, maybe the show will be wonderful. At the moment, the fun quotient is about sixty-forty – enough to recommend it, but not quite wholeheartedly.

Final Grade: C+

Battlestar Galactica: Escape Velocity – The Day After The Day After


Escape Velocity opens with Chief Tyrol given a poignant eulogy at Cally’s funeral and ends with Gaius Baltar in a [for him] most unusual position. In between, this is one of Galactica’s most intense episodes – even though there are no great Cylon battles or even much action at all.

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Earth Day Inspires Green Programming on the Documentary Channel!


This evening, beginning with Earth, Wind & Fire at 7/6C, the Documentary Channel will be airing five consecutive hours of documentaries that deal with alternative power sources; the effect of pollution on nature; the encroachment of development on the Amazonian rain forest, and the possibility of demand exceeding production of “cheap oil.”

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Battlestar Galactica: The Ties That Bind – The Next Day


Civil unrest; civil war; a potential for mutiny and character death – this week’s Battlestar Galactica episode, The Ties That Bind, is picking up the pace. Outside of Cavil’s response to last week’s little fracas with the Centurions, did anyone see any of this happening? Spoilers follow.

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Battlestar Galactica: Six of One – The Day After

Lee's Farewell Salute

After a rather ho-hum premiere, Battlestar Galactica seems to be moving back in the right direction. Where He That Believeth In Me tended to rehash the season three finale without adding much to the running story – except for the development of the Starbuck-Roslin situation – Six of One is almost chockfull o’ stuff.

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Battlestar Galactica: He That Believeth in Me – The Day After

Sam, Lee & Kara

Battlestar Galactica may be the best SF series, start to finish, ever produced for television. Even so, after sleeping on it, I have to say that the final season opener left me cold. [SPOILERS beyond this point!]

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