A Review by Andrew Ewry
As film companies are still hesitant to release proper new films, this week I wanted to take a look back at a series, which I remembered quite fondly. Essentially, my goal was to either rediscover a nostalgic classic or else realize something I remembered with fondness wasn’t nearly as good as I like to think. The 2006 to 2014 crime comedy series Psych was my target for this little exercise. I grew up watching and laughing at this show, and apparently, I am far from the only one who enjoyed it. The series has gained enough traction that it’s become something just below a modern classic. After re-watching the series with a more critical eye, I am happy to say it is just as good as I remember. What is it that makes this odd comedy so popular even years after it went off the air? Let’s dive into a full review of Psych to find out.
The story of this series follows a fake psychic named Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and his partner Burton “Gus” Guster (Dule Hill) as they assist the Santa Barbera Police Department in solving a diverse array of crimes. What gives the show its unique identity is how it runs with this concept to bring out its full absurdity. Shawn is not actually a psychic but rather an incredibly observant person with absolutely zero maturity. So, to him, this charade is just a fun game that he can play to make a little money. As the series goes on, Shawn is put into situation after situation that his immaturity is able to make highly humorous in spite of the crimes being perpetrated. Furthermore Gus is able to play off of Shawn in away that they are never quite focused fully on the crimes but are more just two goofballs out for a good time. That is infectious. While watching these two go through their silly shenanigans, it’s hard to keep a smile from my face. The main plot of the film is always focused around well-written crimes, but the pair’s good-natured humor is what makes this something more than your average police procedural. As the show goes on, its characters slowly develop and grow more and more mature because the show has its fair share of dramatic turns. But even as the characters grow, they don’t lose that spark of silliness. That is the X factor that makes this show what it is.
Speaking of which, the cast is what I consider near perfection for a crime series. Shawn starts off as little more than a man-child. So, watching him grow up and get his act together while keeping his positive attributes such as his witty sense of humor feels like solid and satisfying character development. On that note, Gus is also notable for a similar development. Gus is the more mature counterpart to Shawn, but that is only what appears on the surface. Gus has a difficult time trying to be a responsible and mature person because deep-down he is just as frivolous as Shawn. Over the course of the show, Gus finally learns to combine these two elements of his personality to become the best version of himself. The supporting cast is also quite fun to watch. In particular, Detective Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) works off of the main characters very well. Lassiter is a strait-laced proper detective, but he still holds a sardonic sense of humor that comes out when he gets into conflict with Shawn and Gus. Over time, Lassiter too manages to develop as he begins to care for the two goofballs that make his life difficult. Taking all of the cast into account along with the excellent chemistry the actors have with one another, this provides the show with another feather in its cap.
If there is one thing that I think holds the show back on repeat viewings, it would have to be the referential style of humor the show indulges in. Sometimes these jokes hit, and sometimes they miss. Occasionally the writers act like the art of referencing something is funny. It’s as if I just said “Star Wars” out loud and expected everyone to laugh. Referential humor works when it is used either to comment on the thing it is referencing or used to highlight absurdity. Psych often understands this, but that doesn’t stop the show from sometimes completely dropping the ball on some of its lazier referential jokes.
Psych is a great show that earns its status as a contemporary classic. There is a lot to love about it from its delightful characters to its creative capers shines with effort from its writers. Furthermore, I credit the actors for having such solid chemistry among each other that it makes most of their interactions enjoyable to watch. In spite of its flaws, other series could stand to learn something from Psych. Its consistent balancing act of good writing and a silly tone make it unique to most other shows I have ever seen. I doubt it will be for everyone, but if you find yourself growing tired of the standard crime show formula, Psych has something for you.
Overall Grade – A- (Great but flawed)