Mind Games – New ABC-TV Series – Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

Mind Games is a new ABC-TV series. Starring Christian Slater and Steve Zahn, the series is about two brothers, one Clark Edwards (Zahn) is a bi-polar ex-college professor, and the other, Ross Edwards (Slater), is an ex-con who did a two-year stint in a minimum security federal lock-up for securities fraud. What is it that they will do is the question that’s probably forming, right?

They have opened a business called Edwards & Associates. They specialize, as they describe it, in getting people to change their minds without them having any idea that they been manipulated – or in the parlance of the show – mind games have been run on them without them knowing it.

ABC itself says: a little bit of science, a dash of con-artistry, plus a smattering of Jedi mind tricks, enable brothers Ross and Clark Edwards to tailor a plan to influence any life-altering situation.

The net effect is that their clients get the results they want or need, and the problem has found a solution. The brothers believe that people’s decisions are influenced by their environment in ways they’re haven’t considered. Which really means that they will tweak the situations, based on their own nearly sixty years of studying human behavior.

If you’ve checked out the pilot which aired on Tuesday night (Feb 25th), then you have a pretty good sense of the show. If you haven’t checked it out yet – think of TV fare like Leverage, or Psych, or in more cinematic terms – Mind Games settles in somewhere between Jedi magic Tricks (Star Wars) and Mission Impossible – only without the light-swords, interplanetary travel, C3PO, Glocks, fast cars, and so far , we’ve not seen any latex masks.

It’s all about misdirection and manipulation; and lets not forget dirty tricks with borderline illegality. The show will toss in a more than a few scientific terms, or more accurately psychiatric/psychological buzz words like memory activation or adrenalized implimentation. But it still boils down to fooling somebody.

Okay, as this is a broadcast network offering, we can expect a few trailing subplots involving ex-wives, ex-girl friends, money issues and so forth. But the meat and potatoes will be a new case each week that requires a good old arm twisting – only with out the physical twisting. In short, Mind Games.

The leads, Christian Slater and Steve Zahn bear a similar look and size. Which means we won’t have to suspend disbelief to think of them as brothers. However, in the pilot, for most of the first 15 minutes, we got mostly a lot of bickering, and busted game plans between them, and a failed pitch to a corporate biggie played by Ron Rifkin. Admittedly, it wasn’t the best opening.


Soon enough a client comes in – a single mom with a teenage son who required recurring heart surgeries or could undergo a surgery that would or could provide a permanent solution. Only the medical insurer has denied it, claiming cost, uncertainty, and the fact that it was still considered ‘experimental’.

As this client is poor, and would not be able to afford a hefty fee, a decision is made to take on this case pro-bono. Edwards et all really haven’t any alternatives because as a start-up, they have no other clients, and paying the rent or facing eviction looms.

The problem isn’t too hard to solve. They need to make the insurance claims manager dude to start thinking of himself as someone who can make life-altering decisions. meaning that he will see himself as something of a hero. So these Edwards guys and associates put on one of their staged productions – and lo and behold – they get a favorable decision. Which vanishes almost as soon as they get it as the insurance company, at the corporate level, wants further discussions, so the case is kicked upstairs to senior management – who promptly says NO.

So Slater and Zahn have to put on an ACT TWO. Of course, this is the part that despite being blatantly illegal, might still accomplish the goal since the favorable publicity could only help the insurer long-term. Have a look at the trailer.

Can this work, a new case with new tricks and scams, every week? I’m not sure – especially since I’ve just experienced a faltering of The Blacklist which has a similar structure with a new villain tied to a new bunch of tricks by Red Reddington on a weekly basis.

On the down side is the thought of whether or not Slater and Zahn can develop a following? Can show runner and creator Kyle Killen develop a hit? His earlier efforts – Lone Star (2010) ran for just seven episodes, and Awake (2012) was a one season series (13 episodes) that was not renewed.

Though we can be fairly certain that Slater and Zahn, are not wizards, and they won’t be pulling any rabbits out of a top hat – they just may have to in order to stay afloat, as they face tough competition in the 10:00 PM slot with Person of Interest on CBS, and Chicago Fire on NBC.


5 thoughts on “Mind Games – New ABC-TV Series – Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

  1. I haven’t seen the show yet, but the description immediately brought to mind “Inception,” the movie that involved planting an idea in the mark’s unconscious, which he would believe he had thought up himself. Inception then complicated this premise with collapsing cityscapes and numerous layers of mindscapes in which the mind game(s) were played out.

    I thought Inception was a cinematic emperor’s new clothes story, a basic heist movie beefed up on steroids. I’ll watch the pilot, but it sure sounds like this show should have been called :Inception Light.”

    • I hadn’t thought of Inception. I guess I really hadn’t thought, or seen Inception, since my review.

      But on a comparison, it connects – but not as fully as Inception either on a conceptual level or on altering of reality.

      It is just misdirection through a carefully orchestrated event. But while Mind Games isn’t about dream states, it is about a staged reality. What the Mind Games crew does is to create an actual event which is likely to make people change their ideas about x or y..

      Dreams aren’t a part of the equation.

  2. Haven’t seen the show yet–POI and Justified is enough for me in that timeslot for now–but this seems to be the mark of Killen dumbing things down a bit for a more network-friendly show. Not to say it’s bad, but I’d like to see him take a concept like Awake’s (did you watch Awake?) to a cable network.

    Steve Zahn did great work on Treme, though, so I like that casting. Maybe I will check this out at some point.

    • Guilty – I did not watch Awake when it had it’s 13 week single season, which is why I limited my comment to mere mention of a ‘failed’ series.
      I suppose not being renewed is not the same as failing. Let us know your reactions when/if you do have an opportunity to check it out. Thanks.

  3. I love Killen for his high concept shows (I enjoyed both Lone Star and Awake during their short runs), so while Mind Games seems like a serviceable show, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed especially comparing to his other two shows’ pilots. When I first heard of Mind Games, I figured maybe to get something with staying power he had to go with something a little broader perhaps to try and gain a bigger audience, but the ratings for this were really poor so it didn’t even help there.

    That was a lot of talk about stuff that really had nothing to do with Mind Games’ actually showing. I did watch the pilot and wasn’t very impressed. Steve Zahn was quite good. I was less into Slater’s character and groaned a little when they showed his involvement in his brothers’ relationship ending. Seems like that will just be annoying when he finds out.

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