Monday, November 29, 2010

Detectives with a sixth sense for clues

Source : Deccan Chronicle
Date : November 27th, 2010

It’s a kind of magic. Since the Sherlock Holmes days, we are fascinated by detectives who notice clues, hitherto ignored by all else, and solve crimes with thrilling perspicacity and an air of nonchalance. TV has had a slew of detectives grabbing our attention with several unorthodox methods of crime solving — from the forensic anthropologist Bones (played by Emily Deschanel who has the facial bone structure of a model) to the obsessively compulsive but astute Monk (starring Tony Shalhoub).

The latest prodigal detective on TV is Patrick Jane (played by Simon Baker) on The Mentalist, which is currently a hugely popular show. On this new Zee Café show, the protagonist, who is rather oddly called by his second name, Jane, helps in solving criminal cases with the aid of his mental attributes such as hypnotism and an almost supernatural reading of the human psyche.

Simon Baker puts in a magnetic Emmy-nominated (for ‘Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series’) performance as the show’s quirky protagonist. He anchors the story with his intriguingly abrupt and bordering-on-bizarre tactics. There’s a dark tragedy in his past but in his dealings he is smug (“I have no superiors”) about his superior talents. And not above pulling a fast one. When a group of youngsters is put under suspicion after the death of a member of their group, Jane claims to hypnotise them; but only when one girl suspect blurts out incriminating evidence against another does he blandly reveal that he had not used his hypnotic powers at all.

The Mentalist has the expected hair-pin twist and turns and enough red herrings strewn to excite an army of cats. The lines are cutting and crisp — when the father of one of the group of youngsters is exonerated of murder but charged with having sex with the late, underage girl, the chances of his being sentenced seem slim; but as sympathetic female crime-fighter Lisbon puts it: “We’ll have fun trying.”

The whodunit plots are no better or worse than those in other successful shows of this genre. But what keeps it interesting is the personality quirks exhibited by the characters and the development of the personal arcs of their stories. Lisbon (effectively played by Robin Tunney) emerges as the good-hearted straight (wo)man, a foil to Jane’s brilliant grandstanding. And Jane is vividly brought to life by Simon Baker, who captures his character’s superciliousness as well as the awareness that his gifts are going to win him few friends and little joy.

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