Hey TV.com, Should I Watch Kyle Killen's Mind Games?

By Tim Surette

Feb 24, 2014

Now that the Winter Olympics are over, it's time for the networks to open up the new-TV floodgates and dump a ton of premieres on you. Good luck with that! Enjoy sifting through all the options with no help whatsoever! Oh, wait, I forgot it's my job to help you decide what's worth watching and what isn't. Oops! Today we'll be looking at ABC's latest series, the character-driven and slightly procedural Mind Games. Will the show usher in a new way of thinking or turn out to be just a fancy party trick? Let us help you answer that question in another edition of Is This New Show Worth Your Time?!

Mind Games, eh? Is this some sort of trick?

Well, sorta. Mind Games is an hour-long drama about two brothers—one a bipolar firecracker, the other a con—who are trying to get a unique consulting agency off the ground. Using the sciences of manipulation and human behavior, their plan is to help their clients by influencing important decisions made by others, without those others knowing it (in the pilot, they attempt to get an insurance company to pay for a boy's life-saving surgery). Think along the lines of Inception or a Jedi mind trick, but with a basis in real science. 

Who manipulated this thing into shape, and who stars in it?

Mind Games is the latest series from Kyle Killen, the man behind Fox's short-lived Lone Star and NBC's mind-bending Awake. Christian Slater (Gleaming the Cube) stars as Ross, who's fresh off a two-year prison stint for fraud and who may or may not be done with life as a con artist. Steve Zahn (Treme but I love him for the indie comedy Safe Men and Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight) play's Ross's brilliant bro, whose bipolar disorder sometimes catapults him into manic episodes. Megalyn EchikunwokeGregory Marcel, Wynn Everett, and Cedric Sanders round out the rest of the agency. 

When do the Mind Games start?

Mind Games premieres Tuesday, February 25 at 10pm on ABC, capping off the network's odd Tuesday-night lineup of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Goldbergs, and Trophy Wife. Its competitors will include Person of Interest on CBS, Chicago Fire on NBC, and Justified on FX. 

Fill in the blank: If I like ____ I'll probably like Mind Games.

Based on the pilot, I'd go with Leverage; Mind Games' premise has a similar little-guys-taking-down-the-big-guys feel, though it remains to be seen whether the entire series will follow that blueprint. Other possible comparisons include underdog dramas, character-driven procedurals, and anything having to do with the subject of psychology. 

What won't I mind about Mind Games?

The study of manipulation, motivation, and influence is fascinating stuff, and Mind Games doesn't mind jumping in pretty heavily at times. But instead of tossing around a bunch of big words and citing academic research, the show always ensures there's a layperson around to be our proxy, and the ideas behind the science are eye-opening. Mind Games really pays attentions to its characters, and it has a lot of room to develop the interpersonal relationships between them—things are nice and tangled by the time the pilot's credits roll. Plus, Steve Zahn is a personal favorite of mine, and his unpredictable Clark is full-on unstable in a way that's both entertaining and worrisome. But what really stands out is the show's perfectly flawed cast of characters, who frequently blur the lines between what's right and what's wrong in order to achieve their goals. That's going to be what makes Mind Games unique: Every inch of the show's moral ground is covered in footprints.

What about Mind Games will make me want to quit playing along?

If you're looking for another one of Killen's intricately involved shows about reality, Mind Games isn't for you. Though the show promises deliver more than just an adventure of the week, there's no telling how much of each episode will focus on the agency's clients and targets, so it could easily sink into standard procedural territory–we'll have to watch more to find out. And those blurred ethical lines I mentioned above? Sometimes it's not easy to watch Ross resort to his conman ways or to follow Clark on his manic breakdowns. But that's probably the point.

So, should I watch it?

I say yes. I don't think Mind Games is groundbreaking, but it's well-written, features a pair of outstanding leads, and is a much better show than its logline would indicate.

Lemme see a trailer!

Okay, here ya go:

Mind Games premieres Tuesday, February 25 at 10pm on ABC.

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  • WillianStein Feb 25, 2014

    Are you implying that inception or the force are not actual science? What's next? You'll say that Game of Thrones didn't actually happen? that's absurd...

  • elevenprinces Feb 25, 2014

    Kyle Killen is one of the worst people I've ever worked with.

  • numberonecubsfa Feb 25, 2014

    Really. You, who seems to have just made an account today, worked with him. I doubt that very much.

  • glenguti Feb 25, 2014

    Odds of this surviving aren't good. Not because of the actors or the writing per se. But just this time slot is a death curse for ABC. AND Slater's record on tv is usually is one (season) and done. I'll give it a shot, but Tuesday is a crowded night for my tv viewing.

  • MarlboroMagpi Feb 25, 2014

    Lots of shows starring Slater was cancelled. I do not know if this one will survive. It does not seems to have much of an interesting premise. It sort of reminds me of LIE TO ME. I am not sure if I am watching.

  • efonsecajr Feb 25, 2014

    Slater is TV poison. Don't get too invested. Don't see it lasting more than 10 eps.

  • sandorxian Feb 25, 2014

    "But instead of tossing around a bunch of big words and citing academic research, the show always ensures there's a layperson around to be our Proxy,"

    Sounds like Killen is dumbing it down after Awake. Nothing is worse than characters explaining things all the time, instead of letting the viewers do the thinking.

  • JohanJrvine Feb 25, 2014

    I want Lie To Me back, not a weaker version of a similar premise. This does indeed come across very similar to Leverage, which also tells me it's going to be good for the occasional laugh and then less than half a season in I'll get bored of the stupidity of the unrealistic stupidity of the characters.

    Can't we just have a good show about a genius that has his shit together but pushes the limits of this chosen profession? Or are all show creators so damn scared of alienating the lowest common denominator crowd if they seem too smart? Bah.

  • averysays Mar 06, 2014

    "...are all show creators so damn scared of alienating the lowest common denominator crowd if they seem too smart?"


  • JayAtkinson Feb 25, 2014

    Um, do I even need to watch the pilot now? The trailer seemed to be the entire episode.

  • HudsonThoT Feb 26, 2014

    I thought it was more a movie trailer than a show trailer. And Steve Zahn looks like a young Robin Williams in it.

  • missjudgment Feb 25, 2014

    I'm really not sure about this one. Could turn into a sappy procedural.

  • Stellina84 Feb 25, 2014

    what worries me it's the fact that there's Slater in it- and no show with Slater in it has lasted more than an handful (two, at best) of episodes.

  • Thanatos360 Feb 25, 2014

    You mean 2 seasons, not episodes.

  • Stellina84 Feb 25, 2014

    Seasons? With the killer of shows Slater? please. only breaking in lasted two seasons- and the second one never aired fully.

  • Thanatos360 Feb 25, 2014

    You said no show with Slater lasted more than 2 episodes. Breaking In lasted 2 seasons. That's basically what I meant. That may be the only one and it probably lasted that long because of the rest of the cast and not Slater himself, but it still counts.

  • Stellina84 Feb 26, 2014

    HANDS. not episodes.; (my own worst enemies was less than 10, and the forgotten less than 15, if I'm not mistaken). breaking in is the only exception, but let's be honest, he wasn't the main character there.

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