The Mentalist is the third new show to get a full-season pickup, following 90210 and Fringe. The 90210 pickup was more like the CW throwing down the gauntlet — this is our last-ditch network-saving show, and we’re sticking with it no matter how boring it is — than an actual success. Fringe is doing well, especially with the super-important 18-49s, but The Mentalist seems like the only really big hit of the season so far. In fact, CBS is the only network that seems to have opened the season in a strong position; not only is Mentalist a success, but the ratings for their comedy shows are actually up. (I know it’s conventional wisdom, but I have to agree that CBS’s decision to bring those shows back with lots of episodes post-strike has turned out better than the ABC/NBC attempt to stop shows and then reboot them this season.) There’s something perverse in me that welcomes the CBS approach. They’re by far the most traditional network, turning out procedurals and comedies that could have been made at any time in TV history, but there is a certain wisdom in the comfort-food approach to TV — because that is a large part of what TV is, and always has been. And there’s also wisdom in not going exclusively for the young n’ hip approach; that way lies madness, or worse, NBC. I keep waiting for the CBS approach to produce a really great show, something that takes the tried-and-true CBS procedural format and raises it to a higher level, sort of like the way The Rockford Files took the ’70s detective show format and tried something new within its limitations. Maybe I’ll wait a long time for that, but it’s hard to fault CBS for the approach it’s taken; they essentially made a bet that audience tastes don’t change much over the years, and they’re winning that bet.

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