Five reasons to like “State of Mind”

I cleaned up the DVR over the weekend, which means I finally got to watch the first two episodes of State of Mind, as well as the new episode that aired last night. So far I’m really liking the new Lifetime drama, which stars Lili Taylor as a therapist dealing with her own crises as well as her clients’. Here are my reasons to tune in. [Caution: Minor spoilers.]

5. Lili Taylor in a suit.

Let’s just get this one out of the way. I’ve been a Taylor fan for years — ever since Mystic Pizza — and am glad to see her in a role that fits her skills so perfectly. (I was beginning to worry for her career, espeically after the Six Feet Under mess.) As therapist Ann Bellowes, she is both reliably strong and disarmingly vulnerable — the perfect mix for a mental health professional. Plus her wardrobe is just plain lesbionic:

If she were real, I’d be on the phone right now, trying to make an appointment.

4. LGBT-friendly story lines and dialogue.

I don’t know whether these are just scraps or true signs of a continuing open-mindedness (given creator Amy Bloom’s bisexuality, I’m inclined to think the latter), but I like them either way. The two most salient examples thus far are the transgender story line in episode two and this bit of dialogue between Ann and Conchata (Rusty Schwimmer), the feisty coffee slinger at the Neptune diner:

Conchata: You look terrible.

Ann: Kiss my ass.

Conchata: Honey, if I could bend over that far, I certainly would — you are a very attractive woman. Just not right now.

I know, it’s less revolutionary when it’s said as a joke, but that line definitely hooked me.

3. Fred Smedresmen.

Well, not Fred (Broadway veteran Kevin Chamberlin) himself, exactly, but what he represents: Writing that’s very witty yet doesn’t take itself too seriously. How great is that last name? And how much does it sound like something that you fill in as a placeholder when you’re drawing a blank? “Oh, let’s call him Fred … Fred Smedresmen. Whatever.” Actually, he’s a pretty funny character, too. The neurotic, misanthropic office manager may not be a new idea, exactly, but a misanthrope in a therapist’s office? That’s a nice twist. (Read our article about Amy Bloom, the show’s creator, for more on her notion of therapists as people who take their work “seriously but not solemnly.”)

2. Theresa Randle and Devon Gummersall.

The supporting cast is great in general, but these two (Cordelia and Barry) are standouts. You know Devon as Brian Krakow on My So-Called Life and (regrettably) as Lisa the lesbian man on The L Word, but neither of those roles can prepare you for how adorable he is in this one. And Theresa Randle (Girl 6, Bad Boys) is the perfect confidant for Ann, yet is a full character rather than just a sidekick. (And when she launches verbal daggers at the smug Dr. Kalid, you want to stand up and cheer.)

1. It’s predictable, but it’s somehow smart too.

OK, fine: I have a little trouble with the predictable stuff. You can see plot points and music montages coming from miles away, and I’ve caught myself rolling my eyes. But the show charms me anyway, maybe because of the occasional literary/literate line. Ann often says things like, “Well, color me yellow and call me quisling,” which is a lot more than I’ve come to expect from Lifetime. And then there was this lovely line at the end of the first episode:

James: You know what Henry James said? “We work in the dark. We do what we can. We give what we have.”

If I can’t get that from my own therapist, I’m happy to get it from a fictional one. And so far the show as a whole has offered surprisingly sound advice — maybe I’m misspending my $125 an hour.

State of Mind airs Sundays at 9:00 p.m. Watch the first two episodes online at Lifetimetv.com.

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