‘Mentalist’ a hit, but creator wonders for how long

November 30th, 2008 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Products

In anticipation of Tagged by Rich Ferguson, it’s good to see mentalism succeeding in primetime.

Bruno Heller knows his show, “The Mentalist,” is a hit. The show has beaten down tough competition from ABC and Fox — we’re talking “Dancing With the Stars” and J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi drama “Fringe” — and even expanded its audience. However, Heller sees rough waters ahead, according to this interesting report from the New York Times:

But positioned as it is among the 10 top-rated shows, there is a danger that “The Mentalist” may have nowhere to go but down, particularly as the January premiere of the eighth season of “American Idol” looms. As a powerhouse lead-in to “Fringe,” “Idol” threatens to give the night back to Fox. All of that might be why Mr. Heller doesn’t enjoy fussing over the ratings. “I get vertigo if I look at the numbers,” he said. “I know what other shows are around, but I don’t really watch TV because it makes me too nervous. Yes, we’ve got the No. 1 new show now, but you’re not really successful until you’ve done it for a lot longer than we’ve been doing it.”

“The Mentalist” is the story of Patrick Jayne (played by Simon Baker), a former TV psychic who admitted to being a fraud — turns out he’s just more observant than most. Now, he helps cops, led by investigator Teresa Lisbon (played by Robin Tunney), crack cases and bust criminals. The show is a new take on the model established by “NCIS,” according to the report. But what makes the show really work, Tunney says, are the eccentricities of its creator packaged in a familiar pill that’s easy for people to swallow. His views that TV psychics, such as John Edward, are shams are interesting:

“The show is not directed at him particularly,” Mr. Heller said. “You name the TV psychic — they’re con men. I can say that with complete confidence because John Edward is not going to sue anyone for libel on that score. The reason I know that is because the techniques he uses are those carnival psychics and soothsayers have been using for hundreds of years.”

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