Psych Out

For the last couple of years, my favorite currently airing TV show has been Psych. As much as I like it, I apparently missed more than half of season 5 when it aired. Watching those missed episodes have just reinforced how good the show is. It isn’t anything especially terrific or revolutionary. Its just the usual detective show with a bit of fake psychic misdirection and a more comedic bent than usual. However, the cast and writing is strong. While Psych does engage in some of the popular but often lazy trend of replacing actual jokes with references to trivial bits of pop culture from the 80’s, Psych does more than that. It integrates those references into the fabric of the show.

The Holmes and Watson of the show are Shawn and Gus, played by James Roday and Dule Hill. Shawn is the brilliant and highly perceptive, though at times almost sociopath, detective. He poses as a psychic at first to avoid suspicion in the crimes he solves and later because he is stuck in the lie. Actually, after the first few seasons there is much less focus on making Shawn’s psychic abilities seem believable. Gus is Shawn’s often put upon partner. At first he seems just someone for Shawn to bum rides and bounce dialogue off of, but he does bring more to the table than his car. Gus may not share Shawn’s perceptive abilities, but he has a deep knowledge on a wide variety of topics, helping Shawn tie together clues he otherwise wouldn’t know what to do with. What the show does really well is show the two as real friends. Shawn may play constant pranks on us, but Gus gets his in and even if he would never admit it, he actually likes the uncertainty that comes with Shawn’s eccentricity.

The supporting cast is also great. There is Shawn’s retired detective father, who hates Shawn’s refusal to be responsible. He begrudgingly helps out while also trying to teach Shawn lessons. Then there are the actual police. Psych does a great job of not making the cops seem incompetent while also letting Shawn and Gus solve the case. Detective Lassiter is butt of most of Shawn’s jokes, but the show makes it clear that he is normally a terrific officer. His partner, and Shawn’s eventual love interest, is Juliet, who is just as good a detective as Lassiter and more willing to help out Shawn and Gus. Despite the antagonism between both Shawn and Lasseter, there is camaraderie among all member of the group.

Where is shines is in the often inventive crimes. Of course a trip to see an old friends new summer camp turns into a slasher movie inspired episode. Shawn and Gus are nearly constantly referencing old movies and TV shows, but usually in ways that actually pertain to the situation. They made several Karate Kid references in the episode when they were dealing with a kidnapping that involved a martial arts dojo, but they restrained themselves to one when Ralph Macchio guest starred.

While the show is very joke-y, it does get serious occasionally. Like the season finales that feature the Yin/Yang serial killers, though the 3rd one is a bit of a let down. In those episodes the stakes raise and most of the jokes disappear. And the show still works. The base detective show is strong enough to get by without the humor. But the show is about the humor. It can be taken away for special episodes, but those would lose their pop if the whole show was humorless.

Psych is possibly the most pleasant hour of programming on TV. It isn’t really a show to get excited about, but it just so easily entertaining. There is currently only one other show I make sure to watch. (I ain’t got no fancy DVR) I can feel that Psych is nearing the end of its run, it is getting ready to finish up its sixth season, with at least one more to come.  So I want everyone to enjoy it while it lasts.

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