2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Preview in Two: ABC’s “Mind Games”

Published: February 20, 2014, 2:13 pm, by Terry Terrones

GREGORY MARCEL, MEGALYN ECHIKUNWOKE, CHRISTIAN SLATER, STEVE ZAHN, WYNN EVERETT, CEDRIC SANDERS

What is it? ”Mind Games”

Star appeal: Christian Slater (“True Romance,” “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”) and Steve Zahn (“Sahara,” “Daddy Day Care”)

When does it air? The pilot episode airs Tuesday February 25 at 8 p.m. on ABC

What’s the premise? With a little bit of science, some con-artistry, plus a smattering of Jedi mind tricks, brothers Clark (Zahn) and Ross Edwards (Slater) can tailor a plan to influence any life-altering situation. They are partners in Edwards and Associates, an unusual business based on the belief that people’s decisions are influenced by their environment in ways they’re not aware. A former university professor and expert in the fields of human behavior, psychology and motivation, the frantic Clark has a checkered history, which stems from his bipolar disorder. Clark’s academic career ended when his university became aware he was having an affair with a 22-year-old undergraduate. He’s still unable to reconcile losing the girl, and tries to focus his manic energy on Ross’ new fortune-making plan. Ross, a schemer recently out of prison after a two-year stint for fraud, has come up with a business that he believes can make him and his team rich. However, he often confuses honesty with opportunism and his tactics can be questionable and his strategies border on the illegal.

What are the highlights? Steve Zahn’s Clark is the Sherlock Holmes of psychological manipulation, but on steroids. He bounces off the walls, full of ideas that come to him a mile a minute. It’s fun to watch and it felt that I was actually learning something about human behavior during the pilot. In fact, I was so fascinated by the concept of adrenalized implantation used in the show that I went and looked it up. While I couldn’t find any information on it, just the fact that a TV show had me investigating it got me hooked.

Christian Slater compliments Zahn well. During the first half of the pilot, he was mostly a non-factor but when he was able to portray the lying, scheming and clever side of his character, he shined. Slater and Zahn have great chemistry and it shows in their relationship on the show. They act like real brothers.

What are the lowlights? Clark may be a genius, but he’s prone to break downs and losing his cool. Seeing Zahn go from a brilliant man with an incredible concept of human thought processes to acting like a petulant toddler because his mind moves faster than his mouth can articulate, slows the show down. To sooth him, Ross’s ex-wife joins the gang of mind manipulators but she only serves to muddy an otherwise stellar cast. Between Clark’s bipolar disorder, the businesses struggles and the sparring between the two brothers this series already has enough tension. Adding the ex makes an otherwise upbeat show a little too dour at times.

The Grade: (B): “Mind Games” is a real treat for those who like to think about the subliminal reasons that people do the things they do. I’m not sure how much of this show is based on real science but it sure made me think about the process and it makes for good water cooler chatter. Viewers will get a kick out of Clark and Ross and while I’ve always enjoyed Steve Zahn, I believe this is his finest work.