Tuesday, March 26, 2013

TV Show Review: psych - Season 1

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fast paced, funny, decent mysteries in the second half
Cons: Weak first few episodes
The Bottom Line:
Weak first episodes
Gives way to a funny show
As everything gels

"Your Worst Inhibitions Tend to Psych You Out in the End."

Summer of 2006 saw a new comic mystery join the line up at USA. Paired with returning hit Monk, Psych tells of the adventures of a fake psychic helping the police solve cases. While season one started out a little bumpy, it's really grown on me.

Shawn Spencer (James Roday) is a loser. He's drifted from job to job ever since graduating from high school. The one thing he absolutely knows he doesn't want to do is become a cop. That's what his dad (Corbin Bernsen) has been training him to do since he was a little kid. Growing up, he learned how to observe every little detail at a glance.

Even though Shawn has no desire to be a cop, he can't stop himself from calling in tips to the local police based on news reports he sees. After one such tip, he finds himself under suspicion for knowing too much. He quickly talks his way out of it by pretending to be a psychic. In fact, he's so convincing, Chief Vick (Kirsten Nelson) hires him on a part time basis to help with difficult cases. Shawn decides he likes that so much, he even opens a psychic detective agency which he names Psych. ("The best way to convince people you aren't lying to them is to tell them you are lying to them.")

Shawn is usually teamed up with Detectives Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) and O'Hara (Maggie Lawson). Lassiter doesn't believe a word Shawn says and usually tries to trip him up. O'Hara is skeptical but can't deny what she sees Shawn pull off time after time.

Also along for the ride is Shawn's best friend Gus (Dule Hill). Gus is reluctant to get involved in the cases, but Shawn drags him in anyway. And the two have to deal with plenty of exciting cases. There's an heir who is kidnapped, murders at a spelling bee and a comic convention, dastardly deeds at a high society wedding, and an urban legend that may be repeating itself.

So why did the show take me a while to get into? Part of it is the main character. Shawn is a lying womanizer. I really don't go for those anti-hero types most of the time. The focus during the first half was on Shawn's over the top vision antics, which resulted in some weak mysteries. Frankly, I found the show annoying and wasn't planning on watching when it came back in January.

Then something happened. An author I like penned "Forget Me Not," the episode that kicked off the second half of the season. I decided to tune in, and I discovered I liked it. The characters were given a chance to really develop beyond the caricatures they were in the first half. And the mystery was actually decent. I decided to give it another chance.

While that is still my favorite episode of the first season, I found it set the stage for those that followed. Yes, the antics were still crazy, but I was enjoying it. And I actually grew to like all the characters, even Shawn. The mysteries continued to be puzzling enough to keep my guessing most of the time yet perfectly explained in the end.

The acting began to click in the second half as well. Of course, that's usually about the time that actors really find their characters. And it's true here as well. James Roday and Dule Hill are absolutely hysterical together. They make the show. Not that everyone else isn't great. Timothy Omundson is perfect as stick in the mud Lassiter. And Corbin Bernsen brings the right mix to Shawn's father. He's tough and embarrassed by what his son does (he has no use for psychics or private investigators), yet you can tell he wants to be proud of his son.

The humor in the show ranges from the witty back and forth banter of Shawn and Gus to one liners, absurd situations, and fully body slap stick. There's never a dull moment while watching this show.

The DVD set is packed with lots of extras. There are plenty of deleted scenes and one or two commentaries per disc. The first disc contains two versions of the pilot, behind the scenes segments, and some hilarious bloopers. My only real complaint with the set is the lack of episode descriptions. The titles are given, but they don't always trigger my memory as to what the episode itself is about.

And the first part of season one? Watching it again with this set, I found that, while weak, it wasn't as bad as I remembered it being. Guess it just needs time to grow on you.

Season 1 Episodes
1. Pilot
2. Spellingg Bee
3. Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Piece
4. Woman Seeking Dead Husband - Smokers Okay, No Pets
5. 9 Lives
6. Weekend Warriors
7. Who Ya Gonna Call?
8. Shawn vs. the Red Phantom
9. Forget Me Not
10. From the Earth to the Starbucks
11. He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, He Loves Me, Oops He's Dead!
12. Cloudy...Chance of Murder
13. Game, Set...Muuurder?
14. Poker? I Barely Know Her
15. Scary Sherry: Bianca's Toast

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