TV shows, it seems, are a little like kids, quarterbacks and best-man toasts: You just can't predict how they'll turn out. Now "The Mentalist" starts its final season Sunday (Nov. 30), looking very different from the show that began in 2008. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By MIKE HUGHES
Back in 2008, the
“Mentalist” people were explaining the basics of their show.
Bruno Heller, the
show's creator, was with his stars, Simon Baker and Robin Tunney.
Some reporters astutely noticed that one is male and one is female.
“Bruno, Simon and
I all swore up and down: There is no way these two would ever be
together romantically,” Tunney recalled.
Now flash ahead to
the seventh and final season. It starts Sunday, with the lead
characters in love.
What happened? A
friendship evolved, Heller said, allowing a “sort of Jane Austen
type of romance ... between two people you've known for years (and
are) made for each other, not in a fiery kind of crazy way.”
Not fiery at all.
“At that press conference,” Tunney recalled, “Bruno said ... we
would have all the sexual chemistry of The Clintons. So the bar is
Baker credits Heller
for sticking with the show and developing the story over about 150
episodes. Networks, he said, “are not necessarily story-friendly.
(They think:) 'We've got a hole that we would like to fill with
As the show started,
Patrick Jane (Baker) was a former charlatan who had used his
observation skills while pretending to be a psychic. When his wife
was slain by a serial killer named Red John, he worked with the
California Bureau of Investigation, with Teresa Lisbon (Tunney) as
his stern boss.
“I was so worried
I wasn't going to seem like an officer of the law if I smiled,”
Tunney recalled. “(I thought:) 'I want to be taken seriously. I am
supposed to be authoritative.”
Things evolved. Red
John was killed. Jane and Lisbon moved to the FBI, with a new boss.
One colleague, Kimball Cho, is still with them. Others, Rigsby and
Van Pelt, are gone.
A newcomer –
played by Josie Loren of “Make It or Break It” -- arrives in the
opener. Over these final 13 episodes, Heller said, “there is a bit
of a love triangle going on.”
But the big change
is with Jane and Lisbon, no longer worried about Red John or about
being the boss.
“It is a bit of a
relief,” Tunney said, to feel “light and natural in scenes when
the stakes aren't so high all the time. And you can sort of smile.”
Sort of. “Jane
and Lisbon are private, self-contained, protective people,” Heller
said. “So it is not a very conventional love story, ... because
they are not fiery, passionate, crazy people.”
Still, they're a lot
warmer than anyone had imagined back in 2008.
-- “The Mentalist”
opens its 13-hour final season Sunday, Nov. 30.
-- Sunday spot is
about 9:30 p.m., but could be later with football overruns; it's 9
-- “The Good Wife”
will reclaim that slot on Jan. 4; “Mentalist” then takes 8 p.m.
Wednesdays, beginning Jan. 7; the two-hour series finale is Feb. 18.