Network: USA; Genre: Comedy, Crime/Mystery; Content Rating: TV-PG (occasional mild language and violence); Available: DVD; Perspective: Contemporary (star range: 1 - 4);
Seasons Reviewed: 2 seasons
Friends since childhood, Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and Gus (Dule Hill) quite literally get a chance to play detectives when Shawn's keen eye for details (taught by his cop father Corbin Bernsen) and a colossal lie in which he masquerades as a psychic detective gets them in the inner circle of the Santa Barbra police. This gets him close to beautiful detective Juliet (Maggie Lawson) and raises the ire of her by-the-books partner Lassiter (Timothy Omudson).
If you're asking you're self the question "if he's got such a keen eye for details then why does he have to pose as a psychic detective?" with confusion, snarky skepticism and anger, abandon this review now and surf over to the closest "CSI" rerun. Steve Frank's "Psych" is not for you. But if you asked that same question with a knowing laugh at how much fun a show can be when it is so loony from the get-go that it doesn't care that the fundamental premise about collapses on itself, sit back and enjoy.
"Psych" is a loony funhouse ride through the crime series, a perfect compliment to USA's other irreverent crime comedy "Monk". A live-action cartoon with a perfectly manic performance from Roday and a perfectly straight-laced foil in Hill. There are a lot of odd elements that work for "Psych" - the clever mysteries, a buried unrequited crush story for Shawn and Juliet, the endless obscure pop culture references (random name dropping hasn't been this much fun since the second season of "Family Guy"), a complete lack of any self importance - but the blood that courses through the show's veins is the Shawn and Gus relationship.
Roday and Hill play off each other beautifully. If these two don't have real chemistry then they are brilliant at faking it. Roday and Hill don't miss a beat. Shawn and Gus's banter is a tennis match of whip-fast sibling-like short-hand that nobody in the room gets but them. Roday chews the scenery like a rabid dog. He's got the one-liners, Shawn's breathless rants and physical comedy nailed. His psychically-induced spastic summations play like a much less annoying Jim Carrey - back when Jim Carrey was the big thing. Dule Hill, however, is a comic revelation. Hill bursts out of the wallflower he played for years on "The West Wing", and uses all that bent up comic energy to give the thankless, uptight, side-kick role an unparalleled enthusiasm with a firecracker delivery that makes the tiniest reaction shots hilarious. Gus' horrified reactions to Shawn's behavior make for some of the show's biggest laughs.
Another great strength to "Psych" is that it feels so fresh and free-wheeling, but at the same time is backed by a solid and cohesive story. Shawn and Gus "Columbo" their way through the crime scenes, seemingly more concerned with making 80s movie references or bickering over fashion than solving the case, and yet, in true TV style are always able to beat the cops to the arrest. Consciously trying to one-up the cop series wrap-ups of his childhood, Shawn can't just tell everyone who did it. "Psych's" episode formula ends with TV's freshest and most invigorating wrap-up scenes as Roday can't unmask the killer without an elaborate bit of theatrics or in front of a huge group of people. It is a nearly flawless piece of organized chaos - and one of th most purely entertaining shows on TV.
Tired of the self-contained, self-important crime dramas that chronicle interviewing witnesses, making legal deals and pouring over microscopic evidence? No? Really? Seriously, Not yet? My God. Well, I am and even with "Monk" slowly loosing interest in itself, "Psych" is just the breezy, colorful, thirst-quenching antidote I've been looking for. Much like Shawn and Gus, "Psych" is quickly laughing it's care-free way right past all the TV mystery-solving competition. Beating them fair and square with wit, charm, character and an infectious puppy dog desire to entertain. Funnier than most comedies, more thrilling than most crime mysteries.
* * * ½ /4