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Mental episode reviews


Malcolm will keep you company

June 9, 2009 -- Tonight's episode of Fox's summer drama Mental illustrates the peripheral subordinate role played by the show's one recurring nurse character. It also reminds us that, despite the two nurse-focused summer shows that have received recent attention, physician-centric shows like Mental and USA Network's hit Royal Pains continue to attract many more total viewers--especially if you count the summer re-runs of Fox's House and ABC's Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, and Scrubs. Mental is essentially a variation of House. In both shows, a brilliant hospital physician uses unorthodox, at times outrageous methods to diagnose and treat challenging conditions, amazing his less gifted fellow physicians and earning the tolerance of a long-suffering female boss. The twists in Mental are that the patients all have psychiatric problems, so instead of inside views of patients' bodies, we explore the troubled patients' minds. Also, Mental's lead character Jack Gallagher is charming and social, rather than a witty but obnoxious loner. Jack and four other physician characters provide all important patient care, including psychosocial care. Nurse Malcolm Washington does care about the patients. In one scene here, he reports a basic symptom, one that anyone would notice. In another scene, he briefly advocates for the patient, making a point that is understandable but uninformed. In general, he seems to be on hand to perform basic physical tasks and keep patients company, as Jack puts it at one point. And Malcolm's manner is more that of a faithful assistant than a college-educated professional. The episode, "Book of Judges," was written by co-creator Dan Levine and drew 4.7 million viewers. more...


Summer 2009 TV Preview

May 24, 2009 -- From our summer 2009 TV preview...

Fox's Mental, as the only one of these summer shows on a broadcast network, is likely to attract many more viewers than the others. Perhaps not surprisingly, it appears to be the most conventional in structure, with five strong physician characters, an administrator, and last and apparently least, Malcolm Darius Washington (right), "a nurse who pulled himself out of the impoverished neighborhood he grew up in to pursue his career."

The Fox site explains the show's basic concept:

MENTAL is a medical mystery drama featuring Dr. Jack Gallagher, a radically unorthodox psychiatrist who becomes Director of Mental Health Services at a Los Angeles hospital where he takes on patients battling unknown, misunderstood and often misdiagnosed psychiatric conditions. Gallagher delves inside their minds to gain a true understanding of who his patients are, allowing him to uncover what might be the key to their long-term recovery. As seen through the eyes of doctors and patients who, as Jack points out, have more in common then they're willing to admit, MENTAL also tracks the romantic and personal relationships of the team of doctors and hospital staff who work closely together as they delve into the mysteries, oddities and wonders of the human brain.

The clips available suggest that whereas Fox's House often sends viewers into patients' bodies to explore what is going on there, Mental will show us what patients with delusions are actually seeing or experiencing. The other characters are Dr. Carl Belle, "a master politician with a polished exterior who is dedicated to Jack's downfall"; Nora Skoff, a "hospital administrator" who "shares a romantic past" with Gallagher but whose "conservative style" clashes with his unorthodox approaches; Dr. Veronica Hayden-Jones, a "dedicated psychiatrist who is upset she wasn't promoted to Jack's position"; and Dr. Chloe Artis, who is "drop dead gorgeous with an attitude" and "is passing time in a residency she feels is beneath her until Jack opens her mind to the inspirational benefits of psychiatry." All of these characters play active roles in the video clips online, reacting with outrage, bafflement, or dawning enlightenment to Dr. Jack's "unorthodox" ways--all except nurse Washington, who we could not find in any of the clips.

The show seems like a mix of House and some older neurologically focused hospital shows that did not survive long (e.g., CBS's weak 3 Lbs. ( 2006) and ABC's extraordinarily promising Wonderland (2000)). But in any case, we would be very surprised if Mental's familiar "eccentric genius" focus and heavily physician-centric structure included a good portrayal of nursing.

See a preview of episode 1



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