When first-rate actors wind up in boilerplate TV series, they can either elevate the material or lazily let it steamroller them into submission. Lili Taylor, fortunately, opts for the former in State of Mind, a moderately po-faced psychiatry drama set in New Haven but transparently filmed in Southern California. This being Lifetime, maybe two minutes pass before Dr. Ann Bellowes (Taylor) catches her smirking husband in flagrante with an Ann Coulter look-alike (their marriage counselor, no less!) and righteously decides to be the captain of her own fate.
Things improve (and the formula becomes evident) when we’re introduced to Bellows’s partners, among them Dr. James LeCroix (Derek Riddell), a child psychologist with a fetching Scottish accent, and Dr. Cordelia Banks (Theresa Randle), the inevitable African-American BFF. Give the doctors a personal crisis or two, throw in a couple of patient-related subplots (one comic, one earnest), shake well, and you’ve got yourself a series with at least five seasons’ worth of stories in it.
The most promising element is the presence of Devon Gummersall as a young attorney who’s just as handsome and noble as we all knew My So-Called Life’s Brian Krakow would turn out to be. (But did they really have to get cutesy and name the character Barry White?) His brand of sensitivity makes for intriguing chemistry with Taylor, whose performance draws on the empathetic qualities that distinguished her work on Six Feet Under (that is, when her character wasn’t acting like a complete loon). Indeed, Taylor is so responsible for Ann being interesting that the writers seem to have kicked back and let her do all the heavy lifting. Given her well-documented capabilities, it’s a pity they couldn’t have handed her a role that was custom-Taylored rather than shrink-to-fit.