[04/17/09 - 07:00 PM]
Live at the Paley Festival: CBS's "The Mentalist"
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

Please note: As a courtesy, please do not reproduce these comments to newsgroups, forums or other online places. Links only please.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: As always, due to the Paley Festival's policy of not allowing electronic devices during the panels, I won't be blogging the event "live." Plus, I don't want to be the douche with a laptop clicking away when everyone's trying to enjoy the show. In any case, look for my handwritten blog - how 20th century - to be transcribed and appear around 11:00 PM PT each night. And if I'm feeling adventurous, you might get a few tweets from the after parties.]

6:55 PM - An early start! Tonight's legacy clip comes from a 1993 episode of "Dream On" in which Robin Tunney, sporting a Southern accent, prepares to take the virginity of Chris Demetral.

7:01 PM - Paleyfest ambassador Craig Hitchcock welcomes us to the midway point of this year's festival. He in turn brings out tonight's moderator, Broadcasting & Cable's Ben Grossman.

7:05 PM - "The Mentalist" creator Bruno Heller takes the stage to intro tonight's screening of "Bloodshot." Doh! A repeat.

7:50 PM - Ben returns to bring out the rest of the panel: Owain Yeoman! Amanda Righetti! Robin Tunney! Simon Baker! Chris Long! And of course, Bruno Heller! Ben explains that Tim Kang unfortunately could not make it. "He had to go directly from production right to an awards ceremony," Ben explains. "The Guinness Book of World Records is giving him a thing tonight for being the first actor to get through a whole season without cracking a smile once on camera."

7:55 PM - Bruno shares the show's origins: "I guess the flip answer is if I could have sold CBS and Warner Bros. on doing a show about Sherlock Holmes that's what we would have done. But we had to add something to it. It's essentially an attempt to go back to, not an old-fashioned, but an old school detective. It was something where we were trying to create a framework for a real performance by a great actor and this is the result."

7:58 PM - Bruno and Chris cite mentalists like Derren Brown as an inspiration for the show. "If you go to any city in America, any part of town, you'll find a psychic on the block who is essentially applying the same trade as mentalists," Bruno explains. "They're trying to create the illusion that they can read your mind, that they can see beyond the veil. And what they're doing is essentially using genuine nature skills of empathy... to create the illusion of supernatural powers. And that seemed to be a very interesting moral position to be in because they're essentially performing the function of a psychoanalyst or a priest. But at the same time they're lying about their powers. And least that's my opinion. I think the interesting thing about the psychics is that half the country will say they're, it's not real, they're charlatans, the other half will say, no, they are truthful and profound things about them. And it's precisely that line that mentalists walks along."

7:59 PM - I should point out that 66% of the panel speaks in real cool accents. Sorry Amanda and Robin!

8:00 PM - Ben asks about the similarity between "The Mentalist" and other shows like "Lie to Me." "There is?" Simon quips. Everybody confesses they haven't seen the show. Simon adds, "My fear always going into the ['The Mentalist'] is, how can you branch [its concept] out so that there's, so the characters can go in a lot of different directions. And I was very interested in how 'Lie to Me' deals with it, the concept after five or six episodes. It's a lie! So what!"

8:01 PM - Bruno on the origins of Red John: "What I was trying to do is create a show that was positive and light and could be optimistic about the world but is anchored in the reality of everyone's life, which is you die in the end. And that's what crime shows do on some level is deal with death, but deal with it in a functional way. You get redemption out of it, you get revenge, you find the killer. It was important with this, if you're gonna deal with crime and murder in the positive way we do, you need an anchor of the darkness that allows them to keep it light whilst remaining real. And Red John is essentially the reality in everyone's life. So naturally he's mysterious and enigmatic. He's not the one-armed man like in 'The Fugitive' where you get kind of a sense of a real person. He's much more, he is a real person but he's much more symbolic in that way." Simon adds, "Keyser Soze."

8:05 PM - Robin on her reputation of being the show's class clown: "Sometimes when I guy wins 'Sexiest Guy on Television,' somebody's got to make fun of him." Simon adds that she's looking very sexy tonight.

8:06 PM - Robin on Bruno: "He's a shy guy, he's really bright and he's not somebody who got this job because he couldn't get a girlfriend." This causes Bruno to put his face in his hands.

8:08 PM - Owain shares that he and Tim pass the downtime on set reading "Chuck Norris Vs. Mr. T: 400 Facts About the Baddest Dudes in the History of Ever." Among his favorites: "There's nothing to fear but fear itself and fear is Chuck Norris." and "When Chuck Norris does a push up, he doesn't do a push up, he pushes the world down." Available in bookstores everywhere.

8:12 PM - Ben quizzes the cast about their characters: In high school, did Van Pelt date the quarterback, the bad boy or quietly dated both at the same time? (Both.) Does Patrick Jane favor AC/DC or INXS? ("Patrick's not judgmental, I think he likes all things.") When Lisbon goes home does she watch Oprah or pro wrestling? (Pro wrestling.) Does Rigsby wear boxers or briefs? ("Spandex boxer briefs with a lot of loose fitting lycra. It's very airy.") What does Cho do after watching internet sensation Susan Boyle on "Britain's Got Talent" - tears or no tears? (Owain answers for him: "Privately tears I think, but nothing on the outside.")

8:14 PM - Ben wonders if anyone on the show has been to a psychic. "Whenever I was away on a film on location, I would go to a psychic or a clairvoyant, wherever I was," Simon shares. "It was kind of something I did when I was lonely... in lieu of prostitutes... I could give them money and tell them about myself. Unfortunately, there's nothing physical. Most of the time they were in a foreign language so I couldn't understand what they were saying anyway. It was a certain way to get rid of per diem really." Owain adds he went to one at a party once and was told he was going to die within a year.

8:15 PM - Simon says a really bad hypnotist - who Owain later adds introduced himself as "The World's Greatest Stage Act" - come in to entertain everyone during the show's Christmas party. "It was punishing. He really killed the party, we've invited him back for the wrap party and we're selling stones at the door."

8:16 PM - Ben asks when somebody's going to get laid on the show. "Where do you think Tim is now?" Owain quips. "It's deliberate that everyone is not getting laid every week," Bruno notes. "I don't think people get laid as much in life as they do on the telly... we'll got there but we'll go there carefully and respectfully and slowly like in a real workplace." Robin adds, "The chase is so much more fun. That's romance."

8:17 PM - Ben notes an online poll is out there asking if Rigsby and Van Pelt should get together. "God bless my mom for setting that up," Owain jokes. The results: 89% yes, 11% no. What about Jane and Lisbon, whom fans have tagged "Jisbon?" "I'm going to venture a guess here," Robin chimes in. "It's a lot lower because they all want Simon for themselves." She's right: 57% yes, 43% no. Ben notes there's a Facebook group called "Jisbon Forever"... with 18 members. Simon gives his take: "I think our characters sort of represent like a working, evolved, adult relationship where people do see things differently. And also I feel at times, there's sort of a sibling relationship and sometimes I think it's paternal relationship. I think we're not just pursing the sort of sexy vibe all the time, we're actually filling their [relationship] with other areas people can identify with."

8:23 PM - More teasing by Robin about Simon's sexiness: "This is a true story," Simon reveals. "In an episode, a guest actor, the three of us are in a scene, she said to this woman: 'If you get a bit flushed in the next take, it's okay. You're not the first. Sometimes he turns the heat on I guess.' She took it dead seriously. She [looked at me] and I went, 'Yeah...' She walked away thinking, 'You are the weirdest guy on the planet.'" Robin adds, "She came up to me afterwards, 'I did the scene. I waited to see if I got hot. I didn't get hot. Does he really think he makes women get hot?'" Who was this poor woman: "The Canadian girl that was in the monkey episode." Set your TiVos.

8:26 PM - Ben asks Simon if "The Mentalist" or "The Devil Wears Prada" was more fun. "This one, because I had like three scenes in 'The Devil Wears Prada.' And I get to play this one every day."

8:28 PM - Ben suggests they play two truths and a lie with Simon. "Oh shit," he mutters. The choices: went to nursing school, said his hair has its own personality and wore a skin tight fake crocodile skin outfit for a photo shoot. Simon confesses one and three are true. Simon said bad grades and a love of the ladies lead him to the former: "Nursing school was 85% women and 85% of the men in nursing school were gay so it was pretty good odds. Suffice it to say soon or later there will be a Seth Rogen/Judd Apatow film about two guys going to nursing school." As for the latter, his only defense: "It was the early '90s."

8:30 PM - Audience Q&A time.

8:31 PM - Someone asks about the infamous vests: "We wanted to make it sort of a graphic thing that stays with you," Simon notes. "So that it's identifiable in that old school kind of sense. And when it came to the waistcoat, because we wanted a little bit of magic, a little bit of showmanship but not shiny sequins."

8:33 PM - So what is Jane's car? It's a Citroen DS 21. "It looks awesome," Simon teases. "Doesn't run very well." Robin adds, "I still can't open the door."

8:37 PM - Owain on the burden of learning the American accent: "You go home [to England] and they're like, 'Look at you, so American with your tomato and sidewalk!' And I come here and I'm like, 'Well, I scuffed the pavement the other day' and they're like, 'You're so quirky and British!'"

8:41 PM - A fan wonders if Simon, while playing blind in the episode we just saw, intentionally meant to grab Amanda's boob. Only at Paleyfest folks. "I'm sorry," Simon tells Amanda. "It was totally intentional." Owain jokes, "Just before we started the scene, he went, 'Watch this.'" Simon adds, "I can honestly say that I lied through my teeth to Amanda in saying, 'Oh my God, I'm so sorry.'" Robin follows up with: "Would it be any less creepy if you're like, 'Hey, I'm going to grab your boob in the next scene?'" Yup, only at Paleyfest.

8:44 PM - Someone wonders if Simon wants to be in more action movies. "Is she saying do I sort of wish I was Hugh Jackman?" Simon wonders. This is followed by - and by no means can I do it justice - Simon doing his best Hugh Jackman at the Oscars impression.

8:47 PM - Is the CBI a real thing? "The CBI, conveniently for us, used to exist and no longer does exist," Bruno notes. "So it's real and they can't sue us anymore."

8:49 PM - That's it for tonight - the marathon continues tomorrow!

  [april 2009]  


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