December 6th, 2009
|09:04 pm - Psych? More Like Puh-sike-uh!|
I've heard it both ways.
When Psych first premiered, it seemed to be an amusing show that my friends liked, but because it was a procedural, it didn't seem like appointment TV. My cousins watched it every week, however, and sometimes when I visited on weekends, we would watch the show together. It was very enjoyable. During the third season, however, I began liking the episodes a lot more since they focused on character development and continuing stories; there seemed to be more to the show than I first suspected. The fact that my friend Dahlia was working on the show and I could see her name in the credits every week encouraged me to watch the show more often. Once I planned to hit the Psych press room at Comic-Con, I started catching up as quickly as I could, watching episodes on Hulu and DVRing reruns. And after meeting the cast and creator at Comic-Con, I resolved to be a regular viewer of the show. But I did want to watch all the episodes I'd missed, and, luckily, Dahlia hooked me up with seasons 2 and 3, and Seanan let me borrow season 1, and as of tonight, I have seen every episode of Psych.
The premise/gimmick of Psych is simple: Shawn Spencer is a fake psychic who acts as a consultant for the Santa Barbara Police Department. His dad, Henry, was a cop, and he raised Shawn to follow in his footsteps, which allowed Shawn to hone his observational skills such that he can make Holmesian deductions from minute details. His partner, Burton "Gus" Guster, is a pharmaceutical sales rep who plays the straight-man Watson. Why Shawn needs to pretend to be psychic is something you just have to go with if you want to enjoy the show. You have to handwave the apparent gullibility of the police department and everyone else Shawn runs into and believe that at least some of them see through the bullshit and just humor him anyway because he is a very good detective.
Shawn is a lovable jackass who never considers anyone else's feelings or desires (except when he does, and it's sweet), not necessarily because he's full of himself but because it just doesn't seem to occur to him. He is very confident in his own charm—but he can be vulnerable! James Roday is hilarious as Shawn, imbuing him with a manic energy and effortlessly spouting nonsensical lines at a rapid pace, but he can also play the dramatic moments (Psych never gets too serious, but the great thing is that it manages to successfully take itself seriously when necessary).
Gus is just plain lovable, no jackass. He is the sensible one, the guy who tries to rein Shawn in (usually in vain). He is a total geek with a seemingly infinite number of hobbies and interests, and he probably spends his free time reading Wikipedia. He has his own charm, although he's not as smooth as Shawn sometimes. Dulé Hill is hilarious as Gus, contrasting Roday's manic energy with a very careful and composed delivery and effortlessly spouting nonsensical lines at a rapid—but controlled—pace, but he doesn't seem to get that many dramatic moments, now that I think about it. Which is sad. His dramatic moments still tend to be seen through the "Oh, that Gus!" filter.
The heart of the show is Shawn and Gus's friendship. They've been friends since they were five, and they have such a shared history and knowledge base between them that they can have entire conversations in '80s-movie references. They also both seem to have amazing memories since they still hold grudges over things that happened in elementary school. There are probably too many mentions of ways Shawn has endearingly screwed over Gus while they were growing up, but Gus always forgives him because they are BFFs. They have a very natural chemistry, and even when they bicker, it's clear why they're friends, since bicker frequently turns to banter.
Henry, Shawn's dad, provides another heart of the show. This show has two hearts. Henry and Shawn are estranged at the beginning of the series, but once Henry moves back to Santa Barbara, they can try to reconnect. Shawn frequently goes to his dad for help on cases, and when I only watched isolated episodes, I saw Henry as little more than a plot device. But watching the series from the beginning showed me just how important he is to the show. His relationship with his son is one of the best and most interesting things about the series. It's very clear he's disappointed that Shawn never became a cop, that he seems to have squandered all his potential on little jobs that he quit after a few weeks, but Psych gives Shawn a place to shine. And as hard as it is to admit to himself or to Shawn, he's proud of him and the work he does. Corbin Bernsen actually gets to play two Henrys every episode through the magic of a wig that makes him twenty years younger! Also he acts differently. Because he's an actor.
Filling out the cast are Shawn and Gus's contacts at the SBPD. Detective Carlton Lassiter is an even straighter man than Gus, a by-the-books cop who despises Shawn and his antics but has to reluctantly admit that he's right sometimes. Detective Juliet O'Hara is basically everything Lassie is not, except she's also a good cop who proves herself as the series progresses. She tends to get way into her undercover assignments, and she has a soft spot for Shawn, who has a soft spot for her, and these soft spots eventually develop into the full-blown UST that any long-running series must have. (Interim) Chief Vick isn't really a fan of Shawn's flamboyant "visions," but she does respect his detective skills. Vick was another character that I first saw as extraneous but grew to really appreciate when watching the series from the beginning. She plays a very important intermediary role between the two real detectives and the two psychic detectives.
When it comes down to it, though, the reason I love Psych is because it's funny. The tone is very whimsical but still grounded. Shawn and Gus will frequently digress into ridiculous non sequiturs and references to obscure movies, and there are several running gags (that even get lampshades hung on them at times), but it doesn't veer into 30 Rock territory. The humor extends into the episode titles: "Meat Is Murder, but Murder Is Also Murder," "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, He Loves Me, Oops He's Dead," "Any Given Friday Night at 10 PM, 9PM Central," the upcoming "You Can't Handle This Episode." I enjoy the variety of mysteries and locales: a spelling bee, a comic book convention, a Civil War reenactment, a telenovela, a secret illegal cross-country road race—no, wait, they haven't done that one yet. And why not! This is the show that did an episode about the murder of a sea lion. And then there are, of course, the guest stars! I started listing all the cool ones but there were too many.
There are a lot of procedural shows on the air, but Psych is the only one I watch regularly. It consistently entertains me and makes me laugh, and I think the mysteries are pretty clever most of the time. I love the characters and the actors. It has a little bit of continuity (and the occasional callback, of course), but it's not serial like I like my shows. Regardless, I love it, and I am sad I have no more episodes to watch. The great thing about Psych, though, is that it holds up to rewatches.
You know that's right.
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