I'm one of a handful of people who watched "Killer Women," so I was a tad irked to find out it was being pulled early for "Mind Games." That being said, I was looking forward to the Christian Slater/Steve Zahn series from executive producer Kyle Killen, who was also EP of "Lone Star" and "Awake." Unfortunately, the only thing "Mind Games" has in common with those two shows is that it's going to get cancelled. Harsh? Well, watch it and tell me afterwards that you wouldn't kill to have that hour of your life back.
It seems like the kind of show that has all the makings of an original series. It's not a procedural or hospital drama, it doesn't centre on government agents, police officers, hard-working lawyers or superheroes. Rather, Slater and Zahn play brothers Ross and Clark Edwards, respectively, who are partners in a bizarre business: they can manipulate and influence the way people think and make decisions, but do it in a way said people are unaware of. Sounds convoluted? That's because it is.
Ross is a former con man who wants to be a better guy and believes that his bipolar genius brother Clark can help make that happen. They, along with their colleagues -- Miles Hood (Gregory Marcel), a grad student who is a little bit like both brothers; Latrell Griffin (Cedric Sanders), a serious dude who takes care of the business side of things; and Megan Shane (Megalyn Echikunwoke), an actress who uses her skills to help turn their schemes into realistic endeavours -- use Ross' disregard for ethics and Clark's Jedi mind tricks to offer potential clients an alternative to their seemingly sealed fates.
The series sounds fascinating, and it is. But it's also confusing as hell. Right off the bat, the series had me confounded and I couldn't tell up from down. There are heartwarming moments and then there are times I just didn't get it, nor did I care. A lot had to do with Clark, whose bipolar disorder and manic behaviour tends to drive the story, but while I sympathize, he's just so loud. He chooses not to take medicine for it because it messes with "the process," but for the love of God. SO. LOUD.
Clark's illness could make viewers sympathetic; heck, some people might find Zahn's performance entertaining and don't get me wrong, he definitely has moments. But there are times where he is simply annoying. (I know, I know, sorry!) I cringed throughout the entire opening scene of the pilot. You'll see why. Two words: pointy shoes. I fully expected Ron Rifkin to go all Arvin Sloane on his ass but he is just one out of all the characters around Clark who have the patience of a saint.
Funnily enough, Ross is the bad boy who spent some time in a minimum security facility for two years, but he is the voice of reason here. Slater, with his gravelly voice and his deadpan delivery, is usually the go-to actor for off-the-wall characters (anyone else miss "Breaking In"?) so it's a nice change of pace for him. But he's not all good (in fact, by the end of the pilot, you might be disgusted by him) because where would the fun be in that?
Honestly, though, there really isn't a lot of fun in "Mind Games." The unlikely scenarios these master manipulators cook up (likely we'll get one or two of these situations each episode) are interesting but it simply isn't enough to keep viewers tuning in. In the first episode, the group help a mother get her insurance company to pay for her son's experimental procedure. The outcome is predictable, then it isn't, then it is again. The revelation about Ross, however, is kinda-sorta intriguing.
Shockingly, the most irritating part of the show isn't Clark but, rather, Ross' ex-wife, Claire (Wynn Everett), who just happens to be the only person who can calm down Clark and stop his screaming and his destroying of things. So she's added to the mix, but she also happens to be why Ross went to jail, so you can see why her presence would be irritating. In fact, the whole damn hour is irritating. Maddening, even. Jaime Ray Newman joins the cast in the second episode as a fellow ex-con Ross met during group therapy but I don't know if she'll make a difference. Killen's aforementioned show was cancelled after two episodes (a travesty!). If "Mind Games" lasts longer, I might start screaming and throwing things.
"Mind Games" premieres at 10 p.m. ET on City and ABC.