I have to give Fox credit for putting on some of the better series this miserable year, although given how bad most of the new series have been this year, that ain’t saying much.
Mental, which premieres tonight at 9 p.m., falls into that nice group. Compassionate, but quirky psychiatrist Jack Gallagher (Chris Vance) arrives at a hospital in Los Angeles to take over the psychiatry department. There’s the tough but ultimately supportive boss, Nora Skoff (Annabella Sciorra) and all the other expected types. And each week the staff must somehow unite to solve a psychiatric mystery. If you’re thinking this sounds a lot like House, well, it is a lot like House.
The big difference is that Gallagher is not as angry or self-destructive as Greg House, although Gallagher does have his own demons.
Family-safety-wise, middle-schoolers with close supervision should be able to manage it. There is one scene in the pilot involving nudity – but it has nothing to do with sex, although it was obviously engineered for getting attention. There are a few language issues – friggin’ being one word that pops up. And, finally, while there are no actual sex scenes in the first two episodes, one of the doctors is having an affair with another doctor and I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t get a bed scene here and there. There is some violence – the show takes place in a mental ward and the patients do act out occasionally. But the drama is focused on helping the patients stop acting out and finding peaceful solutions to their respective illnesses.
Which is one good thing about the show – it really deals with mental illness as an actual illness, and Gallagher, particularly, is very invested in maintaining their dignity and value as human beings. Mental illness is tough on everyone, including the families of patients, but it is an illness that if it can’t be cured, can be controlled. And the story-telling in this shows seems to support that. Which also means that there may be some good fodder for discussion with your kids about mental illness and caring for those we love.
Anne Louise Bannon
Your Family Viewer