Brain drain

I couldn’t stop laughing the first time I watched an episode of The Mentalist.

The Mentalist, in case you’re not familiar with this TV gem, is a show about a fake psychic Patrick Jane (Simon Baker) who relies on his good looks, charms and apparently not-fake observational powers as a consultant for the fictional California Bureau of Investigation.

Flipping through stations one night, I caught the show’s opening sequence and watched a scene during which Jane “observed” a man right into confessing a murder.

The dialogue was cheesy, the acting horrible and the story line laughable in a way that, sadly, wasn’t so bad it was good, but so bad it was just awful.

Then I figured out that The Mentalist is set in Sacramento, and I stopped laughing and started cringing in embarrassment.

I know our city just serves, in theory, as the backdrop for the show, but as any fan of Cheers, The Sopranos or Lost will tell you, location is everything and, in great TV, becomes as much of a character as any flesh-and-blood actor.

It’s been more than 30 years since Eight Is Enough, a drama about a widower raising eight kids, represented our city, but is The Mentalist really the show we want putting Sacramento on the pop-culture map?

Of course, Sacramento shouldn’t be unfairly judged by the standards of a crappy TV show, but in our attempts to become a world-class city, shouldn’t Mayor K.J. be stepping in to put a stop to this travesty?

(It’s bad enough that it’s a crappy show, it’s not even an original crappy show, but instead a blatant rip-off of Psych, the critically acclaimed drama about a fake psychic con man who relies on his not-fake observational skills.)

My husband said I was being unfair. After all, the show is a top-10 hit and I’d only watched that short segment.

So, although I’d like to point out for the record, your honor, that he laughed just as hard, hated it on it just as mightily, I decided he was right, and we sat down to watch a full episode.

After just a few minutes in, however, it was clear that it would take more than journalistic integrity to get me through such dreck as “You got shot at, you’re pumped full of adrenaline.”

My husband suggested a drinking game.

The guidelines: Take a shot every time Jane slyly “observes” someone to the point that they confess, inadvertently or otherwise.

Take another shot every time he compliments a woman to get his way.

Take two shots if she gives in.

And so we persevered, pop-culture pilgrims on a mission, throwing back the Jack Daniels with reckless abandon as we watched an episode during which the Mentalist—are you following along?—used his fake psychic charms to use “post-hypnotic” treatment on an amnesiac victim whose memory was crucial to figuring out both a murder and the secret behind a toxic lake.

“It’s kind of like an episode of Scooby-Doo,” my husband said after the Mentalist, using only a cheap truck-stop postcard and the power of his charms, executed a convoluted scheme to trick the criminal into returning to the scene of the crime.

And although I must give kudos to the show for working in a totally NorCal-appropriate plotline about a marijuana-plant ring (“These aren’t your usual hippie pot growers!”), the point is this:

By the end of the night I was smashed, the show wasn’t any better and Eight Is Enough was still the champ, Sactown-style.