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