Things (on TV) That Make You Go, Hmmmm

We regularly watch two hour-long TV shows: The Mentalist and Fringe.

The Mentalist stars Simon Baker as Patrick Jane, a former fake TV psychic (is there any other kind?) whose wife and daughter have been murdered by a serial killer named Red John. Jane now works with a team on the California Bureau of Investigation as an independent consultant who freely admits his old job was b.s..  But he’s insightful and observant and a genuine help to the investigators. He’s also very funny because he doesn’t seem to possess that little voice inside that tells you when something – even though it’s the truth – might be inappropriate to say aloud.  He closes cases but he doesn’t make his agent colleagues look like idiots in the meantime.  It’s a wonderful collection of characters – the tough but tiny female squad leader, the beautiful rookie, the hunky fellow agent who’s nuts about the beautiful rookie, the acerbic and serious one, etc etc.  It’s really a terrific show.  It’s on at 10 pm.

Fringe is a very compelling but weird program from the creator of Lost that requires the viewer to suspend disbelief about the supernatural and other things. The FBI agents on Fringe investigate some very strange goings-on that are planted deeply enough in the real world to make them credible.  Again, there’s a group of wonderful and diverse characters including a brilliant, aging scientist fighting his way back after a leave for a mental breakdown, his logical and intelligent son, a beautiful but troubled agent whose past as an unwilling participant in either a drug trial or a medical experiment (we’re still not sure) haunts her. You get the idea. Unlike The Mentalist, which relies mostly on clever dialogue and brilliantly complex situations, there is often a bit of icky gore in Fringe. This week’s episode had some downright stomach-churning (and thankfully brief) scenes.  Fringe is on at 9 pm.

The airtimes don’t make sense. The gore and blatantly murderous scenes are available an hour earlier than the quick witted dialogue and whodonit scenarios.  We don’t get it. Different networks must use drastically different criteria for what is acceptable in prime time.

While we’re on the subject, there’s an element of Fringe that could be hilarious if we let it.  Lance Reddick plays the head of the division investigating the unusual incidents and he gives the consistently worst performance since Mariah Carey starred in Glitter.   He keeps the intensity dial turned up to 11 in absolutely every scene, no matter whether the topic is how much he misses his wife or the urgency of finding a piece of evidence. It’s almost laughable but we have agreed that we enjoy the show enough to overlook this one flaw. I think of him as a cartoon character that pops in every once in a while to lighten even the most dramatic, heavy scenes.  And when those graphic moments come along, it’s nice to have him offer a little “What’s up doc?”