The Mentalist was on my list of television shows to watch this fall. I like Robin Tunney (she was on the first episode of House), but I wasn’t expecting much. Did the world really need another fake psychic detective show? On CBS? Are there really that many mysterious murders committed each week?

I was surprised to find it was rather good. The Mentalist is an episodic whodunit centering on an eccentric-but-brilliant problem-solver who is backed up by a equally qualified but more conventional team. The genre is a welcome evolution of the sordid forensic procedural, enhanced by a healthy dose of humor, and has produced a large number of excellent and successful series.

Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) is the gleefully not-psychic “character” while Senior Agent Teresa Lisbon (Tunney) plays his foil. Instead of depending solely on the friction between these two characters, The Mentalist succeeds because there is so little friction. Lisbon (and the rest of the team) would be incredibly frustrated by his hi-jinx, but he’s so damn charming. They’re as amused and entertained by him as we are, especially when he “reads” a character’s  internal dialogue and turns it into a public conversation. In a recent episode when the team needed to decide if supporting his personal investigation was worth loosing their jobs, there was very little threat. We believe they support him without a second thought, because his easy confidence is so infectious.

Because of this effortlessness, it doesn’t come as a surprise that The Mentalist is the most watched new series of the past two years. There are far worse shows with large numbers of viewers (Dancing with the Stars).  The Mentalist is quite good, but (please network executives) don’t be fooled into believing the public wants more Mentalist duplicates. There are at least half a dozen equally twins. It’s popular because CSI and Order has exhausted its audience without really offering any other options.

Now, can I interest you in a witty science-fiction serial?


“Talk about failing up.”

“Why do you wear so much purple?”

“It’s so hard finding obedient minions.”

“Spare me the expressive eyebrows… I can’t wait until you get Botox.”

“Now I share a sibling with my boyfriend. That’s a little more hillbilly than I can handle.”

The last 2 episodes (number 5 & 6 ) of Drive will air on July 4 at 8/7c.

After a lull of a year or so, I’ve started watching Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends again. (If you don’t know about it… a strangely sweet cartoon by the creator of The Powerpuff Girls about an orphanage for imaginary friends whose creators/kids have grown up on the Cartoon Network. It’s not an adult cartoon, but a really well done instant-classic children’s cartoon for the offspring of generation x.) This show remains lovely, hilarious, and really a perfect children’s cartoon that won’t make adults was to kill themselves. — The humor is alot like the “storylines” on Sesame Street, but without the obvious educational element. The last few episodes have been surprisingly original, while remaining true to the individual personalities of the main characters. (For a while the episodes were of the monster/imaginary-friend-of-the-week variety, while the new ones have explored ideas based on the major characters, in really funny ways.)

So… it was more than a month ago… and I will post a full article on keeping up with May Sweeps Month in Sweden even though Lost runs 3 weeks behind there. BUT… I do have to mention the joy of the Eurovision Song Contest. (One of the few shows with Swedish commentary.) It’s bigger than any version of … Idol (there are 30 some odd versions of Pop Idol/ American Idol, worldwide.) Most bars were advertising viewing parties for it. For the week we were in Stockholm… articles on the Eurovision Song Contest were on the front page every day. (Usually accompanied by “… wouldn’t know talent if it bit them in the …” owing to Sweden’s loss.) The Eurovision Song Contest is the craziest, most insane, contest type thing I’ve ever seen. Imagine all the weird costumes and dancing of the Olympic opening ceremony, then cross it with Dancing with the Stars, the MTV music awards, and maybe a Gay pride parade and you’ll have a good impression of only one country’s performance. Then… multiply it by the 24 competing countries and add commercials in another language — or even better — commercials that use both English and Swedish. During my first trip to Europe… I got to experience only a little of the World Cup (no TV in my hotel rooms). Maybe not as big as watching the World Cup… but definitely as big as the Superbowl or American Idol finale. One of those great unplanned, European experiences.

Oh… and the rest of non-cable Swedish TV was mostly familiar. CSI, Lost, My Name is Earl, Law and Order, Dr. Who… and a few shows already canceled (like Blind Justice?… I just looked it up only 12 episodes in 2005.) Another of my favorite TV moments was getting to watch “D.O.C.” an episode of Lost (all the flashbacks are in Korean) with Thor’s aunt and uncle after the cousins had gone to bed. The entire episode was subtitled in Swedish, including the Korean. Since I had seen it a few weeks before, it didn’t keep me from understanding the story, but it was just such a nice normal family thing to do. Familiar, but with unfamiliar… yet fewer commercials! I’ve been very vocal about how good American TV is right now… but I didn’t realize how much other countries agreed! (I know, I know… Dr. Who is British…. but I already knew that the Swedish showed a lot of British TV.)

I’ll be writing soon about how much the world of TV watching has changed very soon. And I may even start reviewing summer shows (since they’re finally starting after 2-3 strange weeks with nothing to watch.)

According to TV guide Drive has been canceled.

I want to say I’m surprised, but I’m not. I just hoped for better.

One question: Why does Fox even bother to buy a show created by someone when they’ve canceled or given up on every other show he’s done for them within a few weeks? Heck… save yourself some money and only buy 4 episodes. (Tim Minear shows canceled prematurely by Fox: Firefly, Wonderfalls, The Inside and Drive)

I just discovered today that you can now watch episodes of Heros with video commentary. The video portion is kind of overkill… we don’t need to see the exec producer assistants… and the picture size is the usual small stream, BUT it is freaking awesome to get this kind of content without having to buy the DVD.

To me, Heroes has been this year’s big TV success, and NBC has handled “growing the brand” surprisingly well.

In addition, if you survived the 3rd season Lost exodus (or even if you didn’t,) you really should be listening to the Official Lost Podcast. It’s not the synchronized commentary you get from Heros or Battlestar Galactica, but a rather irreverent conversation and question/answer session from the show runners (executive producer/writers) and short interviews with the actors. Although they rarely answer big questions, they do add some clarity, make promises, and keep me from taking the “mysteries” so seriously. It’s clear that they do have a clue where it is all going and are having far too much fun keeping it a secret.

Drive has cars going fast. In the first three episodes, they are supposedly to be going fast from the Florida Keys to Georgia. It’s pretty obvious it’s Southern California since the flora and fauna is of the “dirt with a few scrubby bushy things” rather than “crazed kudzu swampland with a baby alligator in the puddles” variety. The landscape isn’t important. Does anyone worry about the reality of the location filming in Cannonball Run? No, and you don’t mind here. I just wanted to get that point out of the way.

Even while it does lack Dom DeLuise, there are many element in Drive that are sadly missing in Cannonball Run like; good dialog, complex character development, the extensive use of Google Earth, an engrossing storyline which although enigmatic is logical, and sober actors acting. (more…)

If we were a Neilson Family this week… we would be contributing to the popularity of American Idol.

Thor says that it was Anya’s choice, but as spoiled as she is… I rarely let her choose her tv programs.

So, we are watching American Idol. There are so many good shows I have taped (from 6 episodes of the Office to the Masterpiece Theater Dracula) and we are watching American Idol.

It’s all Anya’s fault.

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