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Steven Culp on "The Mentalist"

Episode: Pilot - Red John

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(Sep 28, 2008,
CBS's The Mentalist, about a faux-psychic who helps solve crimes, had a strong premiere on Tuesday with 15.6 million viewers.

(Sep 24, 2008)
A solid opening for "The Mentalist" helped CBS capture Tuesday's overall ratings title, but FOX kept its hold on the 18-49 demographic.

CBS averaged a 9.5 rating/15 share in primetime, narrowly beating ABC's 9.2/14. FOX came in third with a 6.7/10. NBC's 5.2/8 was good for fourth, and The CW trailed with a 1.7/3.

"The Mentalist" Mesmerizes 15.5 Million Viewers in Strong Debut.

At 9:00 PM, the series debut of THE MENTALIST (P) was second in households (9.9/15), viewers (15.55m), adults 25-54 (5.0/11) and averaged a 3.5/09 in adults 18-49. Compared to the time period premiere last year (THE UNIT), THE MENTALIST was up +48% in households (from 6.7/10), +28% in adults 25-54 (from 3.9/09), +25% in adults 18-49 (from 2.8/07) and added +4.82m viewers (from 10.73m, +45%).

(Sep 24, 2008,, Review of "The Mentalist" Pilot episode, by Brent McKee)
The lead character in The Mentalist is Patrick Jane. For years he pretended to be a psychic, able to use his supposed abilities to contact the dead and to work with the police. He was very successful at this, being a favourite on the TV talk show circuit. That was five years ago though, and things have changed for Patrick – a lot. What exactly that was is a major plot point that I want to reveal at the appropriate point, and indeed it might not be the full story. Jane is now working with the California Bureau of Investigations (which I was surprised to learn is a real organization). We first meet Patrick and the team that he works with as they arrive at a mansion. Posters showing a teenage girl are being pulled down and a teenage boy is being taken away in handcuffs. It's obvious that the girl was missing and her dead body has been found. The local police don't think that the CBI team needed to come out for this one. While the girl's parents – her father really – are giving a press conference thanking the police, Patrick goes into the kitchen of the house, making a sandwich for himself and making tea. The girl's mother comes in and Patrick sympathises with her, telling her that he knows what she's feeling. She says he can't possibly know but he rapidly gains her confidence by telling her things about herself that supposedly no one could possibly know. In fact it's all a matter of observing things in the kitchen. He also figures out that she has doubts about the arrest of the neighbour's kid for the murder. When the husband comes in Patrick accuses him of killing his daughter. He observed a strip of pictures in the kitchen of the father and the daughter that indicated to him that the father had been altogether too close – in a sexual way – to his daughter. The wife leaves the room and comes back with a gun and shoots her husband.

This is all in the first ten minutes or so, and I want to say something about this sequence. I found it interesting that clips from this sequence were used extensively in the advertising for the series, all of which might suggest that the story of this couple was the major storyline for the episode. This is a feeling that is intensified by the actors chosen for the roles of the husband and wife – Steven Culp and Gail O'Grady. You wouldn't hire actors of this calibre for a brief role after all. Well remember what Hitchcock did with Janet Leigh in Psycho? Hire a big name actress and then kill her character early in the movie to set up the rest of the thing? That's exactly what the producers did with Culp and O'Grady. They set up the rest of the episode with the events that culminated with the mother killing the father. And in this case they gave us some insight about Patrick Jane including a hint about his experience that we're meant to dismiss until information about his past is revealed. It's a neat trick.


The writing on this show is solid if not spectacular. The preliminary story (with Culp and O'Grady) is nicely set up to tell us what we need to know about Patrick Jane – he's observant and intelligent but at the same time has a charming arrogance about him. He can be compassionate to those who are deserving of compassion but can also be brusque to those who aren't deserving of it. His scene with the wife, in which he understands what she is going through becomes even more important when we learn about the tragedy in his own life; he really does understand what she is going through. In his scene with Culp's character, who I think he initially suspected when he saw the body language of the husband and wife at the press conference and which was confirmed in his mind by the photos in the kitchen, he comes right out and asks if he killed his daughter and then badgers right back when the man gets mad that very idea that's being suggested. The main story suffers a bit from doing stuff that most of us have seen before. Anyone who has watched enough TV mysteries would have been able to tell you that when two people are murdered in a way where one looks like the main target and the other seems like someone at the wrong place at the wrong time, you should always look to the enemies of the innocent bystander. And of course when the first suspect is arrested, he's never guilty. But of course this needs to happen at least in this episode because it is far less about the actual mystery than it is about establishing the character and at least part of the story of Patrick Jane.

(Sep 23, 2008,, by Angela Henderson)
The first 10 minutes, which introduce us to Patrick, are fantastic and it's one of the best character introductions I've ever seen. And the entire hour gets solid support from guest stars Steven Culp, Gail O'Grady and the Emmy Award-winning Zeljko Ivanek. It's one of the stronger pilots I've seen this year.

(Sep 23, 2008,, by Molly Willow)
In the premiere, slick opening scenes (with guest stars Steven Culp and Gail O'Grady) quickly introduce the audience to Jane's unorthodox techniques.

(Sep 23, 2008,, by Hal Boedeker)
Promising. Stunning opening suggests the potential. It's Baker's show, and he excels. But guest stars impress, too. The opener features Gail O'Grady, Jeffrey Nordling, Zeljko Ivanek and Steven Culp.

(Sep 23, 2008,, by Jason the TVaholic)
Other faces you will probably recognize include Steven Culp (Desperate Housewives, JAG) and Gail O'Grady (American Dreams, NYPD Blue). They contribute to an opening sequence that was expertly put together and serves as a great introduction to the series and to how Jane works.

(Sep 22, 2008,, by Daniel Fienberg)
In addition to the regular ensemble, The Mentalist has to be one of the best cast pilots in recent memory, or else the most wasteful. The pilot has one-off roles for Steven Culp, Gail O'Grady, Jeffrey Nordling, Tim Guinee and newly minted Emmy winner Zeljko Ivanek, all of whom will be instantly recognizable to regular TV viewers. If producers continue this profligate casting, they'll run out of character actors by the end of the first season.

(Sep 5, 2008,, by Ava Gascer)
CBS unveils "The Mentalist" at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23, and right from the start, it makes an impression. Australian actor Simon Baker ("The Guardian," "The Devil Wears Prada") plays Patrick Jane, a detective and independent consultant with the California Bureau of Investigation, or CBI, who relies on his keen powers of observation to solve cases. He is on the scene when a teenage boy is arrested in the murder of a missing neighborhood girl. Instinctively, Patrick knows the boy is innocent, and places a lot of trust in her mother's (Gail O'Grady) instinct.

"I'm the police," he tells O'Grady's husband (Steven Culp). "Did you kill your daughter?"

There's something to be said for being blunt.

Of course the husband objects, and Patrick raises his eyebrows suspiciously. But once this exchange ends surprisingly — and that's a good thing — everything seems to head south in a hurry.

(Aug 19, 2008)
The full name of Steven's character on "The Mentalist" is "Morgan Tolliver."

(Jul 19, 2008)
The name of Steven's character on "The Mentalist" is "Mr. Tolliver."

(May 28, 2008)
According to a blog entry, it looks like as if Steven will be "only" in the pilot of the new series "The Mentalist" :(

These are my first impressions of the network pilots, usually based on unfinished or partially finished screeners. Many of the pilots will undergo reworking, recasting and, in some cases, top-to-bottom reshooting or reconceptualization. Many of the complains I have about the pilots are things that the networks already know, details that are already undergoing alterations. But anyway, here are my first impressions of "The Mentalist":


Baker is perfectly cast here, since he's got very expressive eyes and the point of the whole show is that his character keeps noticing things and the camera keeps cutting back to him squinting and processing data. I've never seen more insert shots in my life, because for this guy, life is just cluttered with clues. The show's main cast -- featuring Robin Tunney, Owain Yeoman, Tim Kang and a miscast Amanda Righetti -- is strong and the guest cast is outrageously guest star laden. If you blow out Steven Culp, Gail O'Grady, Jeffrey Nordling, Zeljko Ivanek and Tim Guinee in a single episode, how can you hope to make it through three or four seasons?!?!?

It's been a while since CBS effectively launched a show with tonal variation and "The Mentalist" suffers from being far too serious for its own good.

(May 28, 2008) The Futon's First Look at CBS'S "The Mentalist" - Rants & Reviews, by Brian Ford Sullivan:

Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2008-2009 season. [...] We'll start with the ones that were actually filmed and move on to the others in the coming weeks.

With that in mind, it's even more important to remember that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. Plus: as an added bonus, we've got a backlog of passed over pilots - some from this season, some from last season - we'll be tackling as well. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!

(The first look contains spoilers - don't continue, if you don't want to know it.)

(written by Bruno Heller; directed by David Nutter; TRT: 47:13)

The network's description: "THE MENTALIST stars Golden Globe Award nominee Simon Baker ("The Devil Wears Prada") as Patrick Jane, a detective and independent consultant with the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI), who has a remarkable track record for solving serious crimes by using his razor sharp skills of observation. Within the Bureau, Jane is notorious for his blatant lack of protocol and his semi-celebrity past as a psychic medium, whose paranormal abilities he now admits he feigned. Jane's role in cracking a series of tough high-profile cases is greatly valued by his fellow agents. However, no-nonsense Senior Agent Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney, "Prison Break") openly resists having Jane in her unit and alternates between reluctantly acknowledging Jane's usefulness and blasting him for his theatrics, narcissism and dangerous lack of boundaries. Lisbon's team includes agents Kimball Cho (Tim Kang, "Rambo"), Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman, "The Nine"), and rookie member Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti, "The O.C."), who all think Jane's a loose cannon but admire his charm and knack for clearing cases. Bruno Heller (creator of "Rome") is creator/executive producer, and Emmy Award winner David Nutter ("Band of Brothers") is the executive producer for Warner Bros. Television."

What did they leave out: Shaun Toub had been cast as KJ Patel, Lisbon's supervisor, however his scenes were either cut or not filmed in the version I saw.

The plot in a nutshell: Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) has ditched his D-list celebrity status as a talk show psychic in favor of working as a consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation. There he uses his "Psych"-esque abilities (minus the extreme close-ups when he notices something) to assist the by-the-book Agent Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) and her team, whether she wants his help or not. The teaser then concerns itself with a husband and wife (Steven Culp, Gail O'Grady) whose daughter has gone missing and all fingers are pointing at the neighborhood's troubled teen. All Jane needs however is quick stroll around their house to figure out the husband actually did it, a fact he's more than pleased with himself about. Said revelation nevertheless causes a surprising result, the first of many indications that this isn't going to be your typical procedural. Two weeks later, Jane - suspended due to the aforementioned incident - once again turns up uninvited to lend a hand on Lisbon's newest case - a golf pro's (Jeffrey Nordling) wife and her doctor have been murdered in Palm Springs. The case poses a particular interest for Jane as evidence the famed "Red John" serial killer has turned up at the scene (a smiley face drawn with the victim's hand). It seems that Jane has a frightening connection to "Red John," one which ultimately made him turn his back on the talk show circuit and his previously frivolous ways. A series of flashbacks trace said connection while Jane, Lisbon and company try to solve the pair's murder. Was it the golf pro, who was having an affair; his brother (Tim Guinee), who was sleeping with his brother's wife; or the doctor's business partner (Zeljko Ivanek), who was embezzling money? Or has "Red John" really returned? The answer gives us a unique portrait of who Patrick Jane is - driven but overtired, hopeful but broken, smart but terrified. Along the way we meet the rest of Lisbon's crew - Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman), the resident meathead; Kimball Cho (Tim Kang), the resident dry wit; and Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti), the resident newbie - all of whom emerge as real characters in lieu of your standard "team" cutouts.

What works: There's a mix of humor and somberness at work here that hasn't been seen on television since the early days of "Monk." What separates this show from the pack however is how each episode is just one long con by Jane as he follows up his own leads and motives, leaving the rest of the team - and we the audience for the most part - in the dark. (Even Jane's backstory is stacked in such a way that all it takes is one simple image to fill in the gaps to heartbreaking effect.) It's a clever twist on the typical "this is how/why he did it" closing scene as in addition to the usual summary, there's the added bonus of discovering how Jane knew what he knew. Leading the charge is the never-been-better Simon Baker, who brings a relaxed charm to the proceedings that really makes the show a genuine pleasure to watch. Baker also gets a surprisingly filled out supporting cast, each of which both loathes and is intrigued by his character. And it works both ways too - Baker's Jane is both annoyed by everyone's naivety as well as intrigued by their conviction, especially in the case of Amanda Righetti's Grace Van Pelt, whose devout religious background disarms him. It's best summarized in the team's pitch-perfect dinner scene where Jane calls them out on their predictableness while they point out how he relies on the same old tricks and shtick, all set against the background of a discussion about whether there's anything beyond this life. Pretty cool stuff. And did I mention "The Mentalist" features the saddest, creepiest and most defining closing moments of a pilot since Jim Profit climbed into a cardboard box at the end of FOX's "Profit?"

What doesn't:
I have no complaints or concerns. David Nutter has without a doubt continued his Joe DiMaggio-esque pilot streak for good reason.

The bottom line: Out of all the filmed pilots this is easily my favorite just for the simple fact it just looks, feels and plays wonderfully.

(May 24, 2008)
According to IMDB Steven will be part of the new series "The Mentalist" that premieres this fall, on September 23, 2008 at 9pm ET/PT on CBS.

Studio: Warner bros. TV

Filming Locations: Glendale, California, USA

Producers: Bruno Heller ("Rome"), David Nutter ("Band of Brothers")

Synopsis: A mentalist (Simon Baker) turns private investigator uses his powers of observation to aid police investigations.

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