TV critics love deeply flawed guys on cable dramas. On broadcast, maybe not so much? Christian Slater and Steve Zahn play brothers — a con man just out of prison, and a brilliant bipolar expert in the field of human behavior, respectively — who form a problem-solving firm that uses psychological manipulation.
One TV critic at the Mind Games Q&A, told the ABC show’s creator she was totally into the pilot until the final twist when she “lost any empathy” and wondered if it would be addressed in the second episode. The creator, Kyle Killen, explained that “what cable’s done to television” is “expanded the palate” and lead characters were no longer expected to be fixed quickly.
Another critic noted it’s Killen’s third recent stab at characters leading a dual life — the other two being NBC’s short-lived Awake, about a cop leading two parallel lives after a car accident, and Fox’s short-lived Lone Star, about a con artist living two lives in Texas. “Nope, just beating the same dead horse,” Killen responded, suggesting he’s maybe not destined to strike up with this particular TV critic one of those effervescent friendships that TV critics and show writers sometimes strike up. Taking the high road, he explained the brothers of Mind Games aspire to help people, which maybe makes it the easiest of his recent TV projects for a wide audience to embrace.
Another critic wondered if Killen had given any thought to switching the two actors’ roles — because, the critic said, Slater is maybe better suited to play a bipolar guy, the illness often goes undiagnosed, tends to run in families, and expresses itself differently among siblings. Killen said he’d never given any thought to switching the two actors.
Zahn jumped in, in the nick of time, getting a laugh: “It’s odd — I spent a decade playing a stoner and then one day all of a sudden I’m a genius. I really don’t understand.” Exec producer Timothy Busfield then chimed in: “From where I’m sitting, these are two of the best. Steve is working his ass off – and so is Christian.”
Mind Games originally was scheduled to bow March 11 and will now launch at 10 PM Feb. 25, after ABC decided to wrap up the season early for critically panned and ratings-flatined Killer Women.