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Ranking the Shows That I Watch – 26: Psych

1 Sep

Psych is the spiritual heir to Monk in the USA family that seems to be coming up a lot early on the list.  What makes Psych work is chemistry between leads James Roday as Shawn, the faux psychic detective who assists the Santa Barbara police department in solving homicides, and Dule Hill as Gus, his life long best friend and more conservative and skeptical partner, who plays a comedic Scully to Roday’s comedic Mulder.

We’ve been comparing USA shows, but forget spiritual heir – an episode of Psych operates almost exactly, plotwise, as an episode of Monk.  Somebody dies, then the tottering/incompetent/helpless police force can’t figure out who the culprit is, which forces them to call on outside help –  a consultant whose prodigal observational powers and ability to see insanely complicated Agatha Christie-esque plots help solve the crime, often leading to a heated confession from the suspect, explaining exactly how and/or why the crime was committed, much to the dismay/shock of the police, who can’t believe they couldn’t figure out what the consultant did.

The difference is in the snark level, which is significantly higher in Psych, and Psych’s emphasis on pop culture references.  Commercials for Psych include a meta-commentary about how Shawn is a real-life version of The Mentalist, and a performance of Hall & Oates’ “Private Eyes” by the main characters all dressed up in 1980s costumes.  Not an episode goes by without back and forth zinger references between Shawn and Gus, often at the expense of the other characters on the show (or each other) and often coming at the most inopportune times.  Some episodes take on specific styles (or particular movie or TV homages), such as a Twin Peaks-like episode and a Fast and the Furious streetracing episode, among many others.

Sometimes it seems like the show should be a half hour, and it’s a little bit silly in a way that most modern television shows aren’t, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing, being just about the only one.  Even though it’s easy to watch, it’s not as easy to marathon, as too much too soon it can feel repetitive, because even though each murder is a result of some different cockamamie scheme, the process gets to feel really similar.  As long as not watching them back-to-back-to-back though, you can avoid this feeling well enough, and the similar process becomes a comfort – you know what you’re getting, and it’s pretty good – rather than a burden.

Why it’s this high:  Much like Entourage, Psych is easy and fun to watch, and there’s something to be said for that – it’s tv I can sit back and relax and enjoy

Why it’s not higher:  The USA low-ceiling formula continues to have this problem – most episodes are solid, but very few make for all-time memorable television

Best episode of the most recent season:  “Viagra Falls” – guest stars William Devane and Carl Weathers play a proto-Shawn and Gus from the previous generation, crotchety old detectives with their own unique methods and chemistry, who come out of retirement to compete with Shawn and Gus to solve the murder of their old police chief.