Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Characterization and Patrick Jane

We moved to Germany in January of 2009, which coincided with the middle of the television season. Because we didn't immediately get AFN (Armed Forces Network) and we weren't fluent in German, we missed the second half of our favorite TV shows. No big deal, but we're now in the process of catching up.

This month has been The Mentalist. When this show originally came out, I wasn't sure I would like it. It appeared to be similar to another show already on USA Network called Psych. Now I'm a huge fan of Psych and from the previews, I thought this was an attempt to cash in on the success of Shawn Spencer. But I watched the first episode because I did like Psych and found that this was not a cheap imitation.

While there are some similar elements, these two shows are not the same. Last night, I watched the season one finale of The Mentalist. Wow, good stuff.

The writers and Simon Baker, who plays Patrick Jane, have done a wonderful job of building a character that people can relate to. He was an arrogant fraud and as a result, a serial killer targeted him and killed his wife and daughter. So, he's known personal tragedy and feels guilt and need for revenge, but his pain has caused him to seek redemption. But all this information is parsed out to us slowly (like in any good story) and the back drop for his character arc is playing detective for the CBI (California Bureau of Investigation).

We see this man go through investigations, asking inappropriate questions and noticing details that only Sherlock Holmes would catch while using hypnotism and slight of hand for misdirection. He acts joyful and full of life, yet we know there is a darkness inside him. We get a glimpse every so often. It makes us want more.

Watching his journey, I don't know if it's more evident to me because I'm learning how to build strong, believable characters in my writing or if it's because I'm watching the episodes back to back. Perhaps a little of both.

Do you watch this show? What do you think of the characterization? Who's your favorite TV character and why? Do you notice such things as you're watching TV or movies?


Natasha Moore said...

I love The Mentalist and it's totally because of Patrick Jane's character! (And not even because all Simon Baker has to do is smile and I melt!) I like all the other characters (and they develop more as the series progresses too) but Jane is a unique character and I think you nailed it when you talked about his dark side - sometimes it seems to come out of nowhere and surprises us. None of the characters on this show are one-sided and they are the reason I come back week after week.

Rachel Lynne said...

I've never watched it but ooooh I want to now! I love Psych. The buddy dialog is hysterical. About noticing the characterization stuff:I watch NCIS back to back on DVR and it's the same. You really see the character arc when you watch multiples. I think too, we're looking for it :)

Kathy Otten said...

Sorry folks, I never got into The Mentalist. Saw it a couple of times, but something was missing for me. I like the premise for Psych, the psychic who isn't one. The less than ambitious hero and the humor in what should be more intense drama. Nice twist from the norm. I guess that's the appeal for me.

Lynne Roberts said...

I don't watch the show but I've always been intrigued with the premise. And Simon Baker is HOT! : )

Great post! I think I'll see if I can find back episodes on-line.


Anonymous said...

The Mentalist is one of the handfull of broadcast network programs that I watch regularly, the others being Criminal Minds and Castle. The primary reason that I will spend three hours a week watching these shows is the writing. The character of Jane is complex and interesting and allow us to suspend disbelief (and the police "procedure" in this show needs disbelief) sufficiently to enjoy each episode.

GPS said...

I don't watch the mentalist. It did look enticing but I already watched too many so I didn't want to get into another one. My favorite TV character is Dexter. I love serial killers and gore, etc. and Dexter is so well done. I even bought the soundtrack. I known I'm deranged.

Riley Quinn said...

So glad to see I'm not the only one that likes Patrick Jane. Rach, check it out. You may like it.

Kathy, I've watched Psych since it came out. My mom thinks it's too silly but that's one of the things I like about it.

Lynne, he is hot, isn't he? You can find the show online. If you have trouble, email me and I can direct you.

Anonymous, I love those shows too!

Gale, I love Dexter too. Have you read the books the show is based on? So dark, yet funny at times, too. The premise is awesome.

Judi said...

I'm a big Mentalist fan for the same reasons you've mentioned and try to watch it every week. Not a Psych fan for the same reason as Kathy's mom.

Currently I'm watching Lost on DVDs which, for my money, has the tightest writing with backstory and the airport scenes fed in at just the right moments. The characters are complex including the biggest character, the Island. I can't watch it as it airs. I get "lost" during the commercials and the week interval. Hopefully, since I'm just finishing up Season on NetFlix, by the time I get to the final season, it will be out on DVD.

Ok, gone on waaaay to long about Lost.

Denise said...

Happy St. Patrick's Day and Yes, I totally adore Patrick Jane in The Mentalist. As the show has progressed, we've begun to see more of his dark side and I find he's becoming more and more disturbing but in a totally intriguing way. He has been brutally scarred by Red John and his own guilt. The writers have done a wonderful job of digging deeper and bringing us along. The correlation with Psyche doesn't quite work for me because I feel The Mentalist is much more serious despite the "cons" pulled by the main characters. And I feel we're getting closer to the CBI staff than we've been permitted with the Psyche team. Because I watch TV to escape, I'm a rather uncritical viewer (unlss forced into it by the more discerning, Riley :-D). When I buy into a show or movie, I seem to buy into it hook, line and sinker, Without a moment's reflection on validity, quality or judgement. It's purely gut reaction and totally escapist. Kinda "I know it when I see it."

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