We know what you’re thinking: another police-procedural show? Yes, and guess what else—this one, The Mentalist, is about a crime-fighting psychic! Skeptical? Well, so is the show. Patrick Jane, the titular mentalist, is actually a fake psychic who has renounced flimflammery and now applies his “expertise” to busting criminals. When a bereaved mother asks if he’s a psychic, Jane replies, “No. Just paying attention.”
In the first episode, he uses his powers to elicit a near-confession from a crook, then goads that grieving mother into a jarring act of violence. “In the opening minute or two, it feels like every other procedural show you’ve ever seen,” says Simon Baker, who plays Jane and who recently starred as a writer-slash-cad from, yes, New York Magazine in The Devil Wears Prada. “But then suddenly you’re thinking, Wait, what is going on here?” Jane is part con artist, part lethal charmer, and part snake-oil salesman—and this is the guy we’re supposed to be rooting for.
An on-set mentalist consulting for the show taught Baker a few nifty tricks, including one involving a drinking straw. So, no matter the fate of the show, Baker has at least picked up a grab bag of magic. “It’s become a problem with my kids,” he says. “They’re always asking me to do one more trick. The truth of it is, I’m not that good at them. I’m just good at pretending I’m good.”