Friday, May 29, 2009

"Mental" on Fox - Tight Writing, Good Storyline, Good Cast. What's Not to Like?

I was surprised, no shocked, that I liked this show because almost every critic (with few exceptions) gave a big thumbs down. Based on those reviews, I expected it to be "House lite". As far as I'm concerned, nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, it's on Fox. So is "Dollhouse" and it even has "house" in its name, but it's not "House." Yes, the star of "Mental" is a Brit. But he doesn't hide his accent. Maybe that should have been the first clue to considering the show on its own merits.

Here's the plot summary of the pilot:

Dr. Jack Gallagher (Chris Vance, "Prison Break" 2007-8 season), Psychiatrist, spends his first day as Director of Psychiatric Services at Los Angeles' Wharton Memorial Hospital trying to win over his colleagues and his boss Nora Skoff (Annabella Sciorra).

Because he's a psychiatrist he's a doctor, but like House? Marcus Welby, MD was a doctor. He wasn't like House. And neither is the principle character in "Mental".

Dr. Jack Gallagher first appears in the show in the Hospital Lobby where everyone else is waiting for some cops to take down a patient in a psychotic break with schizophrenia, played by Silas Weir Mitchell who plays psychotic so well, and who has taken off his clothes to prove he's a human to everyone else who he sees as non-human reptilians. After observing for a few seconds, Gallagher strips and tells him he's human too.

So he's relating sympathetically to patients. He's trying to win over his colleagues. That's definitely not Gregory House, M.D.

It is about psychiatry and psychotic patients (not neurotic people). It's tightly written and has some potentially interesting characters. It should be a stimulating show. If the first episode is any indication it will provide a serious look at mental illness and treatment options. It's not House but it could be just as interesting. It's weekly subjects likely will have more in common with the "ER" episodes with the Sally Field character who is bipolar.

It's a Summer show so it probably won't be canceled after the third episode. If it might appeal to you, give it shot.

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