Review: ‘The Mentalist’

NBC steps into the way-back machine with Gerry McCambridge, whose believe-'em-or-don't antics are considerably less objectionable than the "talking to the dead" psychics who briefly invaded the airwaves. Most projects along these lines haven't fared especially well of late.

Remember those halcyon days of the 1970s, when “The Amazing Kreskin” introduced impressionable kids to the concept of being a “mentalist” as a career option (which is much cooler than it sounds)? NBC steps into the way-back machine with Gerry McCambridge, whose believe-’em-or-don’t antics are, if nothing else, considerably less objectionable than the “talking to the dead” psychics who briefly invaded the airwaves. Most projects along these lines haven’t fared especially well of late, which raises this question: If McCambridge is really all that, shouldn’t he be able to subconsciously convince everybody to tune in?

Actually, after this mildly diverting hour, it’s not entirely clear what McCambridge can do, other than inspire CAA to rep him and NBC to give him a shot in primetime. Featuring an eclectic mix of stunts, the show has a “Things that make you go ‘Huh’ ” quality and moves at a brisk pace, though the host’s soothing voice does risk lulling an inattentive viewer into slumber.

Beyond reading or perceiving thoughts, McCambridge is supposedly able to plant suggestions in people’s minds. The celebrity cameos include “American Dreams’ ” winsome Brittany Snow and those buxom Coors Light twins, who, it turns out, can share a thought between them. The big stunt, meanwhile, features McCambridge riding a scooter through Manhattan blindfolded, mirroring celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito’s approach to running a restaurant.

According to the press release, McCambridge’s act was “discovered” by NBC’s Jeff Zucker at a party in the Hamptons, which indicates at the very least that Zucker needs to start attending some better parties.

Fortunately, people with such powers invariably use them to entertain the masses as opposed to, say, a life of crime, though the distinction might be negligible. If the show becomes a hit, I’m eagerly awaiting the episode of Penn & Teller’s “Bullshit!” explaining how McCambridge pulls it off.

As an aside, McCambridge bears a more-than-passing resemblance to “Everybody Loves Raymond” creator Phil Rosenthal, who conjured up a bit of magic himself, if you think about the odds against producing a sitcom hit these days. Yet couldn’t a mentalist inspire Rosenthal to sign over some of that loot, or would that violate the mentalist code?

Inquiring minds, and perhaps a few skeptical ones, want to know.

The Mentalist

NBC, Wed. May 12, 8 p.m.

Production

Taped in New York and L.A. by Triage Entertainment. Executive producers, Gerry McCambridge, Stephen Kroopnick, Stu Schreiberg, Chris Greenleaf; coordinating producer, Mary Donaldson; director, Michael Simon; writer, Eugene Pack.

Crew

Camera, Chris Swenson, Kevin McCafferty; editor, Dave Harrison; music, Bill Burgess; production designers, Joe Stewart, John Shaffner; segments directed by Kroopnick, Bill Price. 60 MIN.
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