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The Mentalist vs Criminal Minds: Which one is better?



The Mentalist and Criminal Minds are both crime procedural dramas with different takes on the genre, providing similar but slightly different watching experiences, which will be detailed below.


For fans of crime procedural dramas, some of the most popular and iconic series which provided a similar watching experience were The Mentalist and Criminal Minds. A fact that has led to many comparisons drawn between the two shows.

However, this is not entirely fair, seeing that each series has a different take on exploring how to solve crimes through the use of psychology.

Moreover, each series had a different mood and overall tone, with  one being lighter than the other. Below we explore the similarities and differences of the series for you to decide which one wins your favour.

What Is The Mentalist?

Criminal Minds was the first of the two shows to premiere in 2005 and is the longest-running as it had 15 seasons under its belt before it was cancelled in 2020.

The premise of the show is, “The cases of the F.B.I. Behavioral Analysis Unit (B.A.U.), an elite group of profilers who analyze the nation’s most dangerous serial killers and individual heinous crimes in an effort to anticipate their next moves before they strike again.”

What Is Criminal Minds?

The Mentalist premiered three years later in 2008 and had a seven-year run before it was cancelled in 2015. The premise of the show is, “A famous “psychic” outs himself as a fake, and starts working as a consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation so he can find “Red John”, the madman who killed his wife and daughter.”

The Mentalist Vs Criminal Minds: Which Is One Better?

To begin with, fans of both series did see the series as mutually exclusive, as many suggestive lists of the 2010s regarded both shows as complementary to binge watch for any crime procedural dramas. However, when looking at the statistics, Criminal Minds stands the test of time.

This is because Criminal Minds lasted eight seasons longer than The Mentalist. Moreover, towards the end of the series, it had spawned two spin-offs, with CBS attempting to capture the popularity that the series had during its earlier seasons.

At the height of both shows, Criminal Minds still stood head and shoulders above The Mentalist, as it managed to succeed to number one of the top 40 most-watched television shows in its glory days.

But this does not mean that Criminal Minds is everyone’s favourite. Below we share the similarities and differences between the shows to allow you to make your own decision.

Similarities Between The Mentalist And Criminal Minds

The biggest similarity between The Mentalist and Criminal Minds is that both series hinged on figuring out the psychology of the suspect in order to ascertain who was behind certain crimes.

Moreover, in both shows, the crime that the main characters had to solve was episodic or had a two-part episode. Essentially, both shows followed the structure of every episode encapsulating a crime mystery that needed to be solved.

Additionally, they both had a compelling main cast, and fans enjoyed seeing how their story arcs developed throughout the series television run.

Differences Between The Mentalist And Criminal Minds

There are multiple distinctions that make The Mentalist and Criminal Minds different watching experiences. The biggest difference is their premises.

The Mentalist had a clear protagonist, Patrick Jane, and point of view from which it told the story. While Criminal Minds was premised on the ensemble cast which allowed for the series to change perspectives to best tell the story.

A second major difference was the tone and mood of each series. The Mentalist was a quirky, more comical drama series with moments of darkness, whereas Criminal Minds‘ success hinged on it being dark and ominous in its storytelling, which reflected the types of crimes they were investigating.

This is once again unlike The Mentalist, where some crimes and their revelations were humorous and sometimes expected.

Choosing Between The Mentalist And Criminal Minds

In light of the information above, deciding whether you prefer The Mentalist or Criminal Minds will be based on your taste.

If you are looking for a crime procedural drama series that has a distinct protagonist and point of view that tells its story, as well as a comical take that is somewhat light-hearted with occasional dark, thrilling moments, then The Mentalist is for you

However, if you are looking for a crime procedural series which has a darker undertone with a clear premise of investigating serial killers, was innovative at the time of the series’ premiere, and is headed by an ensemble main cast, then Criminal Minds may be your first option.

Final Thoughts

The Mentalist and Criminal Minds are both CBS originals and popular series which premiered in the mid and late 2000s. The Mentalist concluded in 2015 after a dip which the seventh and final seasons of the show could not save from getting the series cancelled.

Criminal Minds concluded five years later, making the series the longest-running of the two. Many factors went into the decision, but primarily a dip in viewership and a change in television trends which affected traditional television programming are the reasons for the cancellation.

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