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 Echikunwoke, Gregory 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.
AIRED ON 4/8/2014
Season 1 : Episode 7