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Created by Bruno Heller for CBS, "The Mentalist" follows the life of a former psychic who reveals to the world he is a fake after the death of his wife and daughter at the hands of the serial killer, Red John. The show began in 2008 and was a critical and rating success with Australian Simon Baker winning numerous awards for his portrayal of Patrick Jane.
"The Mentalist" begins with Patrick Janes called in on a murder case by California Bureau of Investigation Agent Teresa Lisbon. The Bureau is struggling to solve the case of a child who was murdered with few suspects available and the parents seemingly cleared of involvement in the crime.
Patrick Jane enters the crime scene and finds he can identify clues the police and CBI are unable to form the body language of the parents and the state of the crime scene. Jane looks around the house to try and get a better understanding of the family and where they stand in life, immediately spotting the contents of the pantry reveal a less than loving mother.
The body language expert next talks to the father of the murdered child and immediately sees his body language does not support the story he is telling about the death of his child. As he prods and prompts the parents to tell the truth about their life and the murder of their daughter, Jane pushes the couple to a tragic event many CBI Agents blame on the cocky former psychic.
A few weeks after the case involving the murdered child has been brought to an end, Patrick Jane is once again called into action by Agent Lisbon when a potential serial killer case occurs. Lisbon explains her belief the serial killer, Red John has struck again killing a psychiatrist and his female companion. The arrival of a Red John killing prompts Jane to think back to his past and the deaths of his wife and daughter at the hands of the serial killer. Jane is revealed to blame himself for the deaths as he had become so sure of his ability to act like a psychic that he seems to have goaded the killer into action.
Almost immediately upon arriving at the crime scene, Patrick looks for the telltale signs this is the work of Red John. Jane reveals the killer murders his victims on a specific way and leaves the clue of a smiley face written in the blood of his victims. The cues with the current case seem out of place for Patrick Jane and result in him declaring the case a copycat killer.
Unlike other shows with a similar premise, such as "The Ghost Whisperer," Patrick Jane in "The Mentalist" declares himself to be a fake psychic from the very beginning of the show. Instead, he relies on his skills and ability to observe the way people act and the way they live their lives to solve his cases. Over the course of the various seasons of the show, Jane is constantly looking to solve the case of Red John which has become his reason for living and prompted a positive change in his life.
"The Mentalist" was created by the English screenwriter and producer, Bruno Heller for CBS and came just a few years after the breakthrough writing credit for the screenwriter. Bruno Heller was originally a sound engineer in the U.K. when he befriended Portuguese filmmaker, Eduardo Guedes and co-write the comedy, "PAX." This led to a career as a writer which saw Heller work on shows including, "Touching Evil" in the U.K. A move to New York came with the development of his HBO-produced series, "Rome" which gave him the chance to develop other shows, including "The Mentalist."
The character of Patrick Jane is portrayed onscreen by Australian actor, Simon Baker who followed a similar path to Hollywood to his antipodean peers, Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe. Baker began his career working in Australian daytime soap operas, such as "Home and Away" before appearing in Curtis Hanson's "L.A. Confidential" alongside both Pearce and Crowe in 1997. After a series of leadership roles in CBS shows such as "The Guardian," Baker eventually found his feet as Patrick Jane in "The Mentalist."
California Bureau of Investigation Agent Teresa Lisbon is played by Robin Tunney who portrayed characters in many different cult movies, including "The Craft" and "Empire Records." Tunney was working on the Fox network drama, "Prison Break" when she won the role of Agent Lisbon and made the decision to focus on the chase to find Red John alongside Simon Baker.
"The Mentalist" is a co=production between a number of companies including Primrose Hill Productions and Warner Bros. Television for the CBS network. The show was created and overseen by Bruno Heller in 2008 for the first six of the seven complete seasons before the writer shouted his attention to the DC Comics "Batman" spinoff, "Gotham." Basing the show in California meant the crew could work with ease with the Los Angeles neighborhoods around the traditional studios of Hollywood. Some scenes were filmed on location with Sacramento being a popular area for the show to travel to.
There have been largely positive critical responses to "The Mentalist," but these have mostly focused on the acting of Simon Baker and Robin Tunney. The lead actor, Baker won numerous awards for his role in "The Mentalist" with professional critics stating this was the moment he became a bona fide TV star.
Rotten Tomatoes gives the show a rating in the mid-50s for season one with the majority of fans stating the show is a traditional police procedural with the skills of Patrick Jane raising it above the crowded genre. The show has often been described as closely mimicking the USA network show, "Psych" which also deals with a character who's skilled in reading people are mistaken for psychic abilities. The other major comparisons drawn for "The Mentalist" are with the British crime drama, "Sherlock" which uses many similar visual tricks to allow viewers to identify the clues alongside its main character.
"The Mentalist" maintained high ratings throughout its seven seasons and had the distinction of being the most watched show in its time slot during the first season. The pilot of the show was watched by over 17 million viewers with the finale of season seven still pulling in more than ten million.
The race to find the serial killer, Red John inspired the use of the color red in almost every aspect of the production of "The Mentalist." Not only did the majority of episodes up to the death of the serial killer feature the color in the title, Patrick Jane even drank Lapsang Souchong which is known as red tea. As the seasons of "The Mentalist" developed, so did the romantic nature of the relationship between Jane and Lisbon. Bruno Heller has often stated this plotline was not in his original plan for the show but developed because of the chemistry between Simon Baker and Robin Tunney.