The buddy cop archetypes, which extend to any mismatched duo being forced to work together towards a larger goal, has a high propensity for success which means it turns up quite often. Sometimes the trope can be reworked and presented in new and exciting ways, sometimes it can be presented in the exact same way it always has been and still, thanks to good writing and charming actors, be interpreted as new and exciting. And sometimes, like in the case of Mind Games, a show can manage to do all those things and still not work.
TV is a fickle bitch like that.
On paper, Mind Games sounds like a fresh, new take on the buddy cop scenario. Brothers Clark (Steve Zahn) and Ross Edwards (Christian Slater) create a business based on using psychology to alter human motivation and action. Oh and did I mention that Ross is a business minded grifter and Clark is an unstable genius in human psychology? Oh the shenanigans these two opposites will get into!
Unfortunately, even with the talents of Zahn and Slater, Mind Games never really feels like anything other than exhausting. In an attempt to show how equally crazy and brilliant Clark is, the pilot saw a lot of yelling and frantic movement that made the entire hour stressful to watch.
And that doesn’t even touch on the issues with the premise. The pilot revolves around the need for this fledgling business to find some backers. This business that claims to be able to alter outcomes by suggestion and manipulation. The episode goes on to show that this shakily explained “science” can indeed work, but then why not employ it to get employed?
Even with this glaring oversight, which I suppose the creators hoped could be explained away by Clark’s eccentricities, the techniques presented by the merry band of misfits fail to ever make sense. There is a whole sub-genre of TV devoted to the hyper-intelligent, socially inept protagonist who can manipulate any number of scenarios in his favor thanks to his genius and many of those shows enjoy wild success. But, whatever magic ingredient those shows hold is decidedly missing from Mind Games.
I had high hopes for Mind Games, given its cast, but unfortunately it faltered in its basic premise and was never able to regain its footing. The show claims that human behavior is up for the bidding, but it can’t even work that tired and true TV magic of making the audience forget logical reasoning in the face of entertainment.
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