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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Psyched about “Psych”

by Jennifer Squires Biller

Let’s fact it, summer has never been the best time for TV addicts such as myself. Oh sure, every few years a gem like Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, or Dancing With the Stars comes along, but most often it’s dead air when it comes to innovative new programming. I’m happy to report that the drought will soon be over, Tubers, thanks to the USA network and its clever new show Psych.

I watched the screener for the pilot episode last week, and for the first time in months, I’m excited about TV again. Psych debuts this Friday at 10 p.m. So, if you won’t be home on Friday, set your TiVo or VCR. If you don’t have cable, do whatever you have to do — up to and including bribing your neighbors to tape it for you — but do not miss this show. Here’s why I’m psyched about Psych.

Meet Shawn Spencer, a guy with such keen observation skills, he’s convinced the local police department he’s psychic. Shawn is an unemployed, directionless, young man with a true gift for observation and snark, thanks to his demanding cop father. Shawn uses his “psychic” gift to help the police department solve crimes in his own unique way. Watching him con the cop shop and convincing his reluctant best friend Gus (Dulé Hill) to go along with the façade is a thing of beauty. It’s as if Shawn has taken manipulation and charisma lessons from Ferris Bueller.

Psych isn’t a cookie-cutter detective show. It’s character based with its own unique style of unpredictability. I think this is the first time I’ve ever watched a detective show and not figured out who the killer/bad guy was. (Thank you USA!) With its fascinating characters, clever dialogue and humorous plot twists, Psych is the most fun you’ll have in front of the television this summer.

What makes the show truly a standout is its characters and casting. James Roday is likeable as the lead, and despite that his character is sometimes morally challenged, Roday plays him with enough charm to make us root for him anyway. Hill couldn’t be more endearing as the sidekick/cautiously devoted best friend with a weak stomach. But, don’t get the wrong idea. While they’re certainly handsome, Crockett and Tubbs they aren’t. No, this dynamic duo looks more like the Geek Squad than slick detectives, when they slide into their bright blue compact car for an assignment. But hey, that cute little car suits them. It’s young, hip and fun, just like these guys. Rounding out the enigmatic cast is Corbin Bernsen as Shawn’s disapproving, yet likeable, father. Bernsen steals every scene. His character is apparently secretly proud that his son is now working as a detective, although he vehemently condemns his tactics. I can’t wait to see more of their dysfunctional relationship and possibly more flashbacks of Bernsen with hair. (What can I say, I loved his Arnie Becker on L.A. Law.)

Even the show title gets a thumbs up. It’s based on the name that Shawn gives his new detective agency: psych. Anyone who grew up in the ‘80s is familiar with the term “psych” as another word for “gotcha.” (I used it frequently during my junior high years.) When Gus voices his concern that people will know that Shawn is hoodwinking them because of the name on the agency door, he counters that, “The best way to convince people you’re not lying to them is to tell them you are.” I love it. And so will you.

Whether you interpret Psych as “gotcha” or as a shortcut for psychic, there is no mystery here. USA can’t hide the truth. This is the best new show of the summer. And no, there is no “psych” after that statement.

Note: The debut episode is 90 minutes long, so adjust your VCR/TiVos. Regular episodes are 60 minutes.

For those of you who can’t wait for Friday or just want to join in the online fun, go to the official Web site. You can watch a video preview and interviews with the cast, ask “psychic” Shawn a question, read Gus’ blog and chat on the message boards. The network is airing behind-the-scenes footage, karaoke with Shawn and Gus, bloopers and webisodes at the site. I love it when networks make television interactive and don’t ignore their online audience/critics. Bravo!


Rae said...

I'm a little late in discovering this... but I LOVED IT! It's my new favorite show. And, speaking of it, I must go watch now.

tube talk girl said...

It is AWESOME! Best new show of the summer. Hands down! If you missed the pilot, you can watch it at the USA web site or download it free from iTunes.

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