In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, ABC
Talking of show killers, let’s talk about two more.
Christian Slater is pretty much a death knell to any show he happens to be in. We’ve had in the past half decade or so My Own Worst Enemy, The Forgotten and Breaking In, all of them pretty much doomed from the moment Slater joined the cast list to not even being one-season wonders.
Keep your eyes on Breaking In, by the way - remember that? A Fox ensemble comedy about an unusual workplace? - it’ll be important in a minute. No, this is not a mind game.
Now let’s take a look at Kyle Killen. Killen is a man too smart for network TV and he produces shows that really should be on cable and so get cancelled after getting zero audience on network TV. His first effort, Lone Star, was generally saluted as an excellent, dark piece of work about a con man, and as it was on Fox, it got cancelled so quickly, I didn’t even have a chance to review all three of its episodes.
Awake, an almost as serious, interesting piece of work, saw Jason Isaacs as a cop struggling to tell which was real - his waking state or his sleeping state - before eventually discovering that both were equally unreal. As that was on NBC, its low ratings were pretty much in keeping with every other show’s, so that managed to survive a whole season.
Keep an eye on Awake - it’ll be important in a minute. No, this is not a mind game.
Anyway, now on ABC, a network that has traditionally skewed (with a couple of exceptions such as Lost) towards the mildly diverting and soap opera-ish, we have a combination of Slater and Killen - as well as Slater and Killen’s biggest highlights - that logically should be a drama series that’s dead on arrival. In fact, there’s probably not much point watching a single episode of Mind Games.
An ensemble dramedy, it mines both Awake and Breaking In, as well as the likes of Lie To Me and even Inception, to give us a show about two brothers: the slightly ethically dodgy Slater and his bipolar psychiatry expert brother Steve Zahn (Treme), who go into business together with a novel idea - to use the past 60 years of behavioural research to influence people into doing the thing you want them to do.
Unable to get much by way of backing from rich people - in part because of Zahn’s more manic tendencies, in part because of Slater having gone to prison for fraud for a couple of years - they decide to prove their ideas work by using their diverse and ill defined team of helper monkeys to do pro bono work for poor people that they can use as case studies. They start off by performing inception on a surgeon, except without all the interesting dream manipulation. Cue the hilarity, the heart warming and the quirkiness.
And the prompt cancellation.