Simon Baker, The Mentalist
All is right in the perfect world of The Mentalist.
On the show's set, on a crisp, sunny day in Los Angeles, everyone is smiling. The stars are smiling, the public relations people are smiling, and the reporters shuttled in from their hotel to eat donuts and talk to the cast are smiling. But no one smiles brighter than Simon Baker.
The star of the CBS hit is about as handsome as a person can be. His hair is wavy but unfussy, his eyes seem kind, his teeth form perfect lines. When he smiles, you want to root for him because his smile contains such a mix of mischief and humility.
An endless number of police procedurals have failed, and, in the greater scheme of things, the country is in a recession where lots of normal people are losing their homes and jobs. But still, you want to root for Baker because his demeanor matches that smile, as he offers generous praise to the cast and crew in his soft Australian accent, and expresses his gratitude for his show's success.
Asked how his life has changed since the show, he jokes that his accountant talks to him more.
Usually with this sort of person you can find some reassuring downside: They aren't that tall or have fake tans. But Baker has no apparent flaws. His skin looks healthy, and he's a legitimate 6 feet tall. The black-rimmed glasses he wears today only make him seem even more earnest. His co-star, Robin Tunney, very attractive in her own right, says she wishes she could videotape her answer to the first question she's always asked about him, so she could stop repeating it: Yes, he really is that handsome.
And so it is with The Mentalist. It is the top-rated new show on television. The stars seem to like each other. One of the reporters in attendance carries a copy of The New York Times, which includes an article saying The Mentalist represents the next wave of crime procedural, where the focus is on intuition instead of evidence.
No one at the news conference has a hostile question, and none of the actors say anything at all controversial. The Mentalist T-shirts handed out at the end of the session are of a cotton-poly-rayon blend that are the tactile equivalent of milk chocolate.
On Baker's last show, The Guardian, things weren't so good. It lasted three years, though Baker jokes that it felt like four. His character was more conflicted and didn't like himself as much as The Mentalist's Patrick Jane.
Jane abandoned a lucrative career as a celebrity psychic to become an investigator after a serial killer murdered his wife and child. But the tragedy doesn't prevent him from smiling or cracking jokes, because Jane is an inherently satisfied person, always a step ahead of everyone else. He discovers people's secrets using the same tricks he employed as a psychic.
"I'm really happy," Baker says. "Life is very good. Very good."
Which means nothing on The Mentalist is going to change anytime soon. Red John, the killer, won't be caught for a long time. The series will not depart from its format, in which almost every case is resolved within one episode. Baker's dynamic with Tunney, who plays straight woman to his wild card, will stay pretty much the same.
"I don't want to touch it," Baker says of the show.
Because when something is perfect, the only thing to do is hope it stays that way.
What do you think? Why is the The Mentalist so successful?