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Fox's Mental has House in mind, but also a mind of its own

Telegenic Chris Vance has a beautiful mind, too, in Fox's Mental.

Premiering: Tuesday, May 26th at 8 p.m. (central) on Fox
Starring: Chris Vance, Annabella Sciorra, Jacqueline McKenzie, Derek Webster, Nicholas Gonzalez, Marisa Ramirez
Produced by: Deborah Joy LeVine, Dan Levine

Far more jovial and inclusive than Fox's House organ, Dr. Jack Gallagher of Mental nonetheless is in a series of much the same mind.

His methods are unorthodox, the staff initially resents him and his boss is a woman who reluctantly fights his battles while also resisting urges to rekindle a previous romance.

Star Chris Vance and House's Hugh Laurie also are Britishers, an increasingly common trait among lead actors in U.S.-made drama series. But Vance's character actually hails from the U.K., allowing him to keep his very pleasant accent intact while also smiling beguilingly, something House never does.

Launching Tuesday after a House repeat, Fox's Mental at worst is a passably good series buoyed by the overall appeal of its head healer.

"So how'd you end up being a shrink?" asks stern redhead Dr. Veronica Hayden-Jones, who resents Gallagher getting the position she wanted as Director of Mental Health Services at a Los Angeles hospital.

"Guess I've always had brains on the brain," he jauntily replies.

He arrives in showy fashion, stripping down naked for all to see in order to replicate the actions of a "highly delusional" patient named Vincent Martin (guest star Silas Weir Mitchell). This of course has a calming effect on the patient, but initially rankles hospital administrator Nora Skoff (Annabella Sciorra).

"Move in, doctor," she warns, "but don't get too comfortable. Another stunt like that and you'll be out -- on your very public ass."

Ah, they all say that. To no avail, but in the service of your basic cliched way of building dramatic tension.

Still, Dr. Gallagher is way too likable to attract all that much animosity, whether he's leading patients in a taboo outdoor dance session or sending two interns out on a little detective mission.

He also uses the British term "bang-on" to good effect in lieu of saying "exactly." Quite a bloke, 'at one.

Mental resorts a little too much to prototypically "deranged" music whenever a patient freaks out. But Dr. John Gallagher is a dream mentalist -- and dreamy, too -- in his determination to "treat the person, not just the disease."

It all makes for a pleasant summertime surprise -- a reasonably literate scripted drama in what will be an oncoming tidal wave of mostly reality swill from the Big Four broadcast networks and li'l CW.

Mental is by comparison quite thoughtful. And therefore all the more appreciated.