In the past year I started to do an episode by episode review of the USA original series, Psych. Then I found out that after its 8th season, the show was calling it quits. It was a somewhat abrupt announcement, but I decided that I was going to discontinue my episode reviews and just wait for things to wrap up and do one big series review for this, a show that’s been in my regular viewing rotation for years.
Psych is USA Network original, comedic crime procedural. What makes this show unique is that it chronicles the adventures of a fake psychic, Shawn Spencer (James Roday), and his side kick Burton Guster, aka Gus (Dule Hill). The show previewed back in 2006, before similar shows like CBS’s The Mentalist, TNT’s Castle or Fox’s Lie To Me jumped on the “hyper-observant police consultant” trend. Of course, you could argue that these things are all derivative of Sherlock Holmes, but that’s another conversation. What was special about Psych was it’s combination of the genre with it’s special brand of humor that worked around wittiness, bantering, and oh so many retro and pop culture references.
When the show began the premise was very simple. Shawn was an underachieving man child who was only interested in women and his bike. His father, Henry, was a over dedicated police detective who had drilled his skills of observation and deduction into his son when he was young. As an adult, Shawn would occasionally, use the detective skills his father taught him to help the Santa Barbara, CA police solve a case by calling in with anonymous tips. At one point he ends up at the police station (for a ticket) and solves a crime. However, with no solid evidence and facing felony charges Shawn pretends to be psychic as a way to explain how he was able to “divine” the perpetrator of the crime, effectively keeping him out of jail. Things don’t stop there and he continues to get called in my the department as a psychic consultant, and makes that his full time job. His childhood friend, Gus, basically gets drug along for the ride by Shawn and the two start their psychic detective agency: “Psych”.
From week to week the Psych detectives are brought in on a variety of murder cases by the Santa Barbara police. They are partnered with head Detective Carlton Lassiter aka Lassie (Timothy Omundson) and junior detective Juliet O’hara (played by Roday’s real life sweet heart Maggie Lawson). They are sometimes assisted by Police Chief Karen Vick (Kirsten Nelson), Shawn’s father Henry Spencer (Corbin Bernsen) and several other members of the SBPD. The murder cases that they get called in on run the gamut from ridiculous and impossible, like when Shawn was able to finger a dinosaur in a murder case, to terrifying and suspenseful, like Shawn’s notable run-ins with the Yin-Yang serial killer.
Aside from the week to week cases, this show is subtly about Shawn’s relationships. Throughout the series Shawn has to repair his relationship with his father. He also pursues a relationship with Juliet, which is complicated by his psychic secret. His relationship with Gus is constantly strained and strengthened as he depends on him to help him get through a lot of things, especially the stuff he’s not mature enough to handle. There’s also his working/adversarial relationship with Lassie who goes from Shawn’s biggest critic to a friend by the last parts of the show. Psych really cares about handling these relationships well. That care shows through in the finale as everyone’s relationships stay intact in the end. So if you’re worried that you’ll be let down by the show in the end, don’t be, they got you.
Despite dealing with a murder every week the show is a comedy and it revels in its own silliness. At one point they did an entire tribute to the show “Twin Peaks” which was reported to have 100’s of references to the original show. There were episodes where Shawn and Gus found themselves at different times on a Spanish soap opera, as part of a circus, members of a football team, legal consultants, on a bachelorette style dating show, and on a version of American Idol. In their last season they did an episode that was actually a shot for shot remake of an episode they did in an earlier season. That season also featured a full musical episode. Aside from the really silly things there were also a lot of little jokes that were consistent through the show. Whether it’s Shawn’s different fake names for Gus, the many different appearances of a random pineapple, the re-use of the phrase “Suck it”, or Shawn’s “don’t be the…” quotes, there were a lot of little jokes that the show kept going and were so rewarding for long time watchers.
I don’t know that I would say that Psych is ground breaking or the best show that I’ve seen by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn’t need to be. Psych is consistent and fun. It’s the kind of show that makes watching TV comfortable and enjoyable. It’s not something you have to over think or be emotionally drained by. You can simply turn it on and have some fun. Sure it has some dramatic moments and some of them are huge moments, but the show is always fun first. If you’re unsure about the show there are few episodes that I would recommend picking out from this show to see if you like it:
- Season 1 Episode 1 – “Pilot”
- Season 1 Episode 7 – “Who Ya Gonna Call”
- Season 1 Episode 12 – “Cloudy…with a chance of Murder”
- Season 1 Episode 15 – “Scary Sherry: Bianca’s Toast”
- Season 2 Episode 1 – “American Duos”
- Season 2 Episode 3 – “Psy vs. Psy”
- Season 2 Episode 13 – “Lights, Camera…Homicidio”
- Season 3 Episode 7 – “Talk Derby to Me”
- Season 3 Episode 16 – “An Evening with Mr. Yang”
- Season 4 Episode 1 – “Extradition: British Columbia”
- Season 4 Episode 6 – “Bollywood Homicide”
- Season 4 Episode 7 – “High top Fade-out”
- Season 4 Episode 10 – “You Can’t Handle This Episode”
- Season 4 Episode 16 – “Mr. Yin Presents…”
- Season 5 Episode 2 – “Feet Don’t Kill Me Now”
- Season 5 Episode 10 – “Extradition II: The Actual Extradition Part”
- Season 5 Episode 12 – “Dual Spires”
- Season 5 Episode 16 – “Yang 3 in 2D”
- Season 6 Episode 2 – “Last night Gus”
- Season 6 Episode 16 – “Santabarbaratown”
- Season 7 Episode 1 – “Santabarabaratown 2”
- Season 7 Episode 7 – “Deez Nups”
- Season 8 Episode 3 – “Remake A.K.A. Cloudy… With a Chance of Improvement”
- Season 8 Episode 10 – The Break-up
Obviously, that’s a long list, but most Psych episodes stand alone without having to follow the whole series. I would definitely recommend owning it even though it’s available to stream on Netflix.