Weekend Review – “Psych: Seasons One and Two”

The first two seasons of this USA Network series are on DVD, and the third season is on mid-season hiatus at the moment. And, yes, I used a rather liberal definition of “psychic” to justify reviewing this here, because I really wanted to get the word out about this series.

Cast and Crew Information

James Roday as Shawn Spencer
Dule Hill as Burton ‘Gus’ Guster
Timothy Omundson as Carlton Lassiter
Maggie Lawson as Juliet O’Hara
Corbin Bernsen as Henry Spencer
Kirsten Nelson as Karen Vick

Created by Steve Franks

Availability Information

Seasons one and two are available on DVD.

Premise

Shawn Spencer was raised by a detective to be a detective. He is a natural, and is so good at it that he can solve open police cases by watching footage on the evening news. He does so, inadvertantly convincing the police that he’s involved in the criminal activity, since they don’t believe he could solve such complex cases based on so little information. The only way to stay out of jail is to convince the department that he’s psychic.

High Point

The second season’s episode titled “The Old And The Restless” offers everything that works in the show in a neat little package. We get the invariably immature antics of Shawn and Gus, the involvement of the local P.D., and some great scenes between Shawn and his father, played by Corbin Bernsen. To give some idea of the feel of the show, here’s the episode’s premise: Shawn and Gus are hired to locate a missing person who dissappeared from a retirement home. After failing to break in on numerous occasions, they end up challenging Shawn’s father, Henry, to a bet to see who can solve the case first. It’s not until they arrive that Henry realizes Shawn’s real plan: to register Henry as a guest. This is the strategy Shawn’s lifelong friend, business partner and frequent “volunteer” Gus details by saying: “This is what we call plan B. You know, it’s kind of funny when it’s not me.”

Low Point

Some of the “psychic messages” come in with actions that are over the top.

The Review

This is a quite original premise. I’m a big fan of detective shows, as my collection reveals, and this doesn’t look or feel like any of them. It’s funnier than Columbo or Monk at their best, without cheapening the mysteries involved. It also stars lead characters who are two of the most entertainingly immature people I’ve ever seen on television. I give it 6 out of 6.

The effects are minimal, but well done. The only real visual effects involved are the “zoom in and highlight” effects used to draw the viewer’s attention to the details that Shawn picks up on. It’s quite nicely done, drawing the viewer’s attention to the clues in a slightly subtle way. I give it 5 out of 6.

The stories are very well done. Detective stories are hard to write. As a viewer, I generally try to solve the mystery myself as I watch. Frequently, I’m either frustrated with the television detective because the solution is obvious long before they figure it out, or I’m frustrated with the writers because the character solves the puzzle using information the viewer does not have access to. Neither of these situations happens very often on this show. It’s very well paced out so that the characters figure it out as soon as the last necessary piece of information is revealed, so the viewer and characters solve the case simultaneously. That’s very hard to do, and the creators of this series have been doing it very effectively. I give it 6 out of 6.

The acting can seem a bit weak, because there are few moments of high drama, but the actors involved are doing exactly what the show asks of them. This is, first and foremost, a fun hour of television, so there’s not a lot of personal tragedy involved for our leads. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production is well done. There’s not a lot of variation in the lighting and almost no use of shadow, but that suits the tone of the scripts nicely, particularly in the Santa Barbara setting. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response is great. As I said, this is first and foremost a fun hour of television. The tone is captured quick well on the IMDB quotes page. (Pay particular attention to exchanges between Shawn and Carlton.) It’s a satisfying detective show that entertains with or without the mysteries. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, this is a strong series to tune into when you want to kick back and laugh for an hour without shutting down the brain as so many sitcoms need you to do. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Psych: Seasons One and Two receive 37 out of 42.

11 replies on “Weekend Review – “Psych: Seasons One and Two””

  1. hans says:

    Fantastic
    A fantastic show which I highly recommend. I feel like the third season has been a little bit more "gimmicky" though—like they think we’ll get bored of the "basic formula". But as you pointed out they do it so well and with such comedy that it works every time.

    • Fez says:

      Re: Fantastic

      A fantastic show which I highly recommend. I feel like the third season has been a little bit more "gimmicky" though—like they think we’ll get bored of the "basic formula". But as you pointed out they do it so well and with such comedy that it works every time.

      To me, it seems all three seasons have their own "feel" so far. Each one is a little different from the last, and not in so much of a good/bad way, just different.

      I often wonder just how much longer he can cover the psychic guise, but then I think about episodes like "65 Million Years Off" where, unless you’re Gus or maybe his dad, anyone else would be left to wonder "how the heck did he come up with that if he wasn’t psychic??"

      Something tells me that by the end of season 3, he will either let Juliet in on the secret or she’ll figure it out on her own.

      Side note: I miss the old style "psych-outs", the new ones just don’t have the same effect as the old ones did.

      • Babbster says:

        Re: Fantastic

        I often wonder just how much longer he can cover the psychic guise…

        I wonder the same thing about the "real" world. :)

        Seriously, though, I’m in full agreement with all the Psych love around here. Basic cable is full of great shows this century.

  2. Erf says:

    Amazon.ca?
    Is there an Amazon.ca version to link to for those of us in the Great White North? :)

    • fiziko says:

      Re: Amazon.ca?

      Is there an Amazon.ca version to link to for those of us in the Great White North? :)

      Are you looking for season one or season two?

    • shifting says:

      Re: Amazon.ca?

      Is there an Amazon.ca version to link to for those of us in the Great White North? :)

      Handy trick:

      Take some random link to amazon.com/whatever.
      replace the .com with .ca
      voila. amazon.ca link
      the only time I’ve ever had it not work, is if amazon.ca doesn’t have the item for some reason.

      • fiziko says:

        Re: Amazon.ca?

        Handy trick:

        Take some random link to amazon.com/whatever.
        replace the .com with .ca
        voila. amazon.ca link
        the only time I’ve ever had it not work, is if amazon.ca doesn’t have the item for some reason.

        Our referral accounts for the two websites are distinct, so that end will break this way, too.

  3. J_W_W says:

    Great Show
    This is an absolutely wonderful show.

    With all due respect to CBS, I really hope that "The Mentalist", their rip-off of psych, crashes and burns as quickly as possible.

    Psych is such a charmingly funny show, trying to spin this concept as a serious show will fall very flat. Perhaps on the second half of season three, they’ll riff on copycat psychic detectives….that could be real fun.

    • Fez says:

      Re: Great Show

      This is an absolutely wonderful show.

      With all due respect to CBS, I really hope that "The Mentalist", their rip-off of psych, crashes and burns as quickly as possible.

      Psych is such a charmingly funny show, trying to spin this concept as a serious show will fall very flat. Perhaps on the second half of season three, they’ll riff on copycat psychic detectives….that could be real fun.

      I also thought "psych rip-off" when I heard about The Mentalist. I do not plan on watching it, but when I read deeper into the premise it did sound more different than it seemed on the surface.

  4. Nickvotrobeck says:

    Hi-larious
    A great show that always makes me laugh.
    For more fun with Maggie Lawson and James Roday see the Fear Itself episode "In Sickness and in Health".

    • J_W_W says:

      Re: Hi-larious

      A great show that always makes me laugh.
      For more fun with Maggie Lawson and James Roday see the Fear Itself episode "In Sickness and in Health".

      Thanks for the tip. I had a bunch of Fear Itself episodes on my DVR, so I watched this one. While I did guess the twist about halfway through it was still a great episode and it was nice to see these actors in a different story.

      Initially I though James was playing his character a little too much like Shawn from psyche, but his change towards a little more villainous tone was well done.

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