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'Mental' nostalgia recap: You can't do that on television

Season 1 | Episode 5 | “Roles of Engagement” | Aired Jun 23, 2009

Mental‘s fifth episode mixes celebrity and mental illness, and creates one terrible cocktail. Actor Liam McBride has a Charlie Sheen–style meltdown on the set of Spike Feresten’s talk show, and two hours later, the Wharton Memorial team is discussing what to do with him. Jack is laughing over having to discuss decoy cars and secured elevators. “Once he gets here, we treat him like any other patient,” he declares, much to Carl’s horror. Heaven forbid Jack Gallagher not understand the importance of celebrity, because he takes so many other things into consideration.

The next morning (after the press conference), Liam’s manager, Andy (John Pyper-Ferguson), admits that his client is an extremely Method actor who can’t find the line between reality and fiction. For example, he pretends to shoot invisible enemy combatants and delivers speeches in his underwear. Is it all the drugs he’s been on, or a psychotic break? Nope; he’s faking the whole thing because his next movie is about a mental patient. As soon as Jack calls him on it, Liam (Tom Parker) asks for a latte and wanders off to his room, leaving Nora to wonder how a team of trained professionals could be duped so easily.

But hold the crazy train. Jack reviews the tape of Liam’s TV outburst and is curious why the actor kept ranting well after the audience had left and the show had gone to commercial. He decides to ask the source, buddying up to Liam and offering him access if he sticks around the hospital for a couple extra days. “I think he was having a breakdown for real,” he tells Carl and Veronica, going through the symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Andy informs Jack that Liam has been firing his whole entourage left and right, but still doesn’t think it’s anything more than “the biz.” Yes, he actually says that.

Jack is never short of tricks up his sleeve, though, and convinces Liam to submit to exposure therapy. In it, he’s restrained in a dark room, under the guise of teaching him about treatment. Then Jack leaves him there to panic and cry, while he confronts Andy about how good of an actor Liam really is.

“He came in here pretending to be crazy and you actually made him crazy,” Nora tells Jack, who can’t help but laugh at the irony. He also tells her that it’s not the drugs; Liam’s drug panel came back negative. Now it’s time to dig into his history, and not just what his press kit wants them to know. At the hospital gym, Jack wonders why his patient is directly quoting his studio-written biography, so he hits up the president of Liam’s fan club, who tells him about Liam’s first manager, Maggie.

While Maggie gives Jack the lowdown, Veronica confronts Carl about an “anonymous” tip regarding Jack causing Liam’s breakdown. Their argument is halted by a power outage, during which Liam is found in the supply room, trying to inject himself with testosterone. Apparently Andy has been loading him up for some time. Jack thinks Liam (not his real name, by the way) is addicted to the image that’s been created for him, and he’ll do anything it takes to maintain it. So hey, let’s pretend to hypnotize him and coerce flashbacks about the Terrible Things that happened to him as a teenager!

Jack reassures Liam that everything will be okay now that he’s admitted to his demons, and refers him to a therapist. Veronica admits her affair with Ryan Moore to Nora over drinks. In return, Nora admits that she and Jack had a weekend together when they were in Vermont and that she’s still attracted to him. Who wouldn’t be—have you seen him? Or realized that he’s usually the smartest guy in the room? Or that he could read the McDonald’s drive-thru menu and it would sound interesting? If this guy were real, I’d have married him.

Never mind that this episode has enough dangling threads to knit a sweater. “Roles of Engagement” has a nice twist, but precisely because it takes time for that “guy faking crazy actually is crazy” reveal, it’s all about diagnosing the problem rather than solving the problem. We learn that Liam went from a broken home to simply broken on the streets of Los Angeles (which is straight out of the cliché box). We also find out that he’s off to visit one of Jack’s med-school buddies to deal with his baggage.

But this is like the prologue to a much bigger story. We’re never even told what his real name is. If you’re going to point out that he’s using a fake name, you could at least give us the real one. Like Todd. Or Phil. Maybe Steve.

Even the hospital chaos in this one isn’t as amusing as it usually is, except for Veronica cementing her role as the Robin to Jack’s Batman. Yes, Carl is still a giant jerk. No, we don’t care about Nora and Veronica comparing whose romantic indiscretion is worse (it’s clearly cheating Veronica). Maybe Chloe and Arturo still work here, seeing as they didn’t even show up in this episode. This whole installment is basically Jack being a one-man band, and as much as there should totally be a Jack Gallagher Fan Club, one guy does not an entire show make. Not even if your patient is a famous actor faking a meltdown on FOX’s attempt at a late-night talk show.

Mental is available on DVD.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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