Third-episode verdict: Mind Games (ABC)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, ABC

Time to pass judgement on Mind Games, Kyle Killen’s latest foray into his two apparent obsessions – the mind and con artists – and Christian Slater’s latest foray into his apparent obsession with workplace dramedies, in which Leverage-style a bunch of psychologists, actors and con artists team up together to use mind control science to help life’s underdogs get what they want.

After a largely unremarkable first episode that excelled at practically nothing and was thrown considerably off balance by Steve Zahn’s central bipolar character, we’ve seen two episodes of the show trying to centre itself. As well as toning Zahn down to the point where he’s an almost bearable, teddy bear-esque character rather than an annoying scene-dominator, we’ve seen a minor reshuffling of characters, with one largely superfluous character being written out in favour of another character (Jamie Ray Newman) who largely fulfils the same function as Megalyn Echikunwoke’s character. No idea why they’ve done that, but the new character is at least an improvement on the previous, somewhat dull one.

We’ve also seen greater focus on the mind control science, which is at least interesting, and the third episode gave us both an interesting ethical challenge to the show’s entire concept as well as a worthy adversary using the same techniques as our good guys.

However, despite these improvements and individual moments that verge on the moving, it’s still largely an uninteresting show that foregoes any real challenges to the viewer, any real tension and any real intrigue in favour of feelgood minor laughs and hijinks interspersed with some misguided attempts to do a darker character dynamic between Zahn and Slater. It’s a shame really, because Slater is giving us some of his finest, Jack Nicholson-impression-free work, but his role in the stories inevitably is about his lack of ethics versus Zahn’s greater scruples, but with no real dilemma since Zahn is always right, Slater always wrong (and a bit evil, albeit well intentioned evil).

What the show really needs is guts, edge, focus and a much smaller character roster. But with Killen having offered all of those in his previous shows, only to have them cancelled after about five minutes, it’s small wonder he’s avoided them here. Unfortunately, as a result, he’s produced a show that rather than be good but cancelled before its time is probably not only going to be cancelled, but deservedly so.

Barometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Will be cancelled by the end of the season.