Is “The Mentalist” a Blatant Ripoff of “Psych?”

This is the question that crept into my head upon first hearing of CBS’s “The Mentalist.” Being a huge fan of “Psych,” I was, of course, a little annoyed at the obvious similarities between the two shows.

Both shows have an anti-authority, faux-psychic, hyper-observant man-child–Patrick Jane for Mentalist, Shawn Spencer for Psych–who uses his abilities to help the police solve crimes. But…but…doesn’t every show have a character like this (my imagined response from the execs at CBS when presented with this similarity)?

There are some differences between the shows. “The Mentalist” is a drama that not only solves a case in each episode, they also have a series thread about a serial-killer named Red John. When Patrick Jane’s (Simon Baker) wife and daughter are murdered by Red John, he decides to quit his job as a sleazy television-psychic and use his abilities to help the police. Even though Patrick works with a team of four other people, he is predominately a loner with difficulties trusting others.

“Psych” is a comedy that solves one or two cases an episode, and has a penchant for pop culture references. When Shawn Spencer (James Roday) uses his ultra-attentive skills to call in multiple tips on the police hot-line, he is falsely accused of being a criminal himself. Since the cops are unwilling to believe he’s merely an observant innocent, he decides to pass himself off as psychic–and scores a kidnapping case within minutes. Shawn cannot stand to be alone and must always be accompanied by his best friend and reluctant partner Burton ‘Gus’ Guster (Dule Hill).

Personally, I’m a much bigger fan of “Psych” than “The Mentalist.” “Psych” is so much fun to watch–with its crisp writing, original premise and hilarious duo of Shawn and Gus–I’m surprised there aren’t more knock-offs.

Not that I’m inferring “The Mentalist” is a blatant ripoff of “Psych”, or anything. 🙂