By Ken Tucker
June 10, 2009 at 03:06 PM EDT

Obviously the producers of the new Fox show Mental had no idea that this week’s guest star, David Carradine, would die before the broadcast of the episode called “Book of Judges.” And so there was a lot of unintentional eerieness in seeing Carradine playing an author who’d been struck by lightning and was immobile, in a catatonic state. For most of the hour, Carradine’s limp body lay on a bed or was propped up in a wheelchair.

Some dialogue description of Carradine’s character, Gideon Graham — “He’s an icon, a national treasure” — sounded to me like last-minute dubbing, especially given the fact that the rest of the hour established Graham as a rather arrogant adulterer. Adding to the awkwardness was Mental‘s difficult-to-buy plot: Carradine’s Graham was being subjected to electrical-stimulation sessions to his skull, but the show’s hero, perpetually smirky Dr. Gallagher (Chris Vance), suspected that Graham was actually conscious — that he was faking his coma.

And, oh yes: Gideon Graham also had a “super-model” daughter whom our Dr. Gallagher romanced. Add typical Mental lines like, “Dr. Gallagher is… dynamic,” and — well, while this series could, in general, use a booster-shot of quality, it’s just plain bad luck that one of Carradine’s last performances couldn’t have offered a better showcase for his talent.