Sunday, May 26, 2013

TV on DVD Review: psych - Season 4

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Still enjoyable comedic mystery
Cons: The humor seems forced at times
The Bottom Line:
Not quite as funny
But still has plenty of laughs
And good mysteries

"I Need You to Suspend Your Disbelief and Hop on the Streetcar Named Shawnsire."

Comedies seem to be struggling on TV right now.  I know I don't watch the number I used to.  But one reliable comedy is psych.  This show uses a mystery format as an excuse for laughs, and it does work on both fronts.

The series revolves around Shawn Spencer (James Roday).  Shawn was your typical slacker until he found a way to use the hyper observation that dad Henry (Corbin Bernsen) drilled into him.  No, he's not a police officer, his dad's fondest wish.  Instead, he consults with the police, pretending to be a psychic.  He uses the clues and then communicates them via "visions."  His partner in crime is his best friend since childhood, Burton "Gus" Guster (Dule Hill.)  He regularly helps out the Santa Barbara police, particularly Chief Karen Vick (Kirsten Nelson), and Detectives Carl Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) and Juliet O'Hara (Maggie Lawson).

This season saw Shawn and Gus take on sixteen new cases.  A vacation to British Columbia (where the Santa Barbara set show is really filmed) finds Shawn and Gus on the heel of an art thief that Lassiter has tracked for years.  An old west tourist trap is about to close, and Shawn is hired to find out why.  Gus' high school singing group comes back into his life when one of the members dies and the rest become targets of a killer.  Shawn is hired by a guy who thinks he has become a werewolf.  A river rafting trip with a group of thrill seekers turns deadly.  And in a Jaws spoof, a deadly shark is attacking people off the coast, or is it?

This season also saw them try a few more serious episodes, basically the mid-season and season finales.  In one, Shawn is taken prisoner when he stumbles into a crime in progress.  And in the season finale, the gang learns that last year's serial killer had a partner who is now targeting people close to Shawn with scenarios straight out of Hitchcock films.

For the most part, this season continued to entertain.  The mysteries are never especially convoluted, but they often keep me guessing until the end.  And the jokes fly fast and furious.  They will often spoof a movie or genre in an episode, and that keeps things feeling fresh most of the time.  Plus there's the banter between the characters, especially Shawn and Gus.  And we can't leave out the pop culture references that flow between those two characters without any difficulty at all.  There's plenty going on here to keep you entertained.

However, the entire package didn't quite come together as well this year as it did in years' past.  I had a hard time placing my finger on exactly why.  Certainly, I'm not as big a fan of the more serious episodes, although both of the ones here were fine.  I think they are just trying too hard with the comedy.  They know the fans expect a certainly energy level, and they tried to up the bar this season.  At times it worked, and I laughed hard.  At other times, it definitely felt forced.

Another strike against this season is trying to play up the potential relationship between Shawn and Detective O'Hara.  I know the two actors are dating in real life, but I just don't see the chemistry between their characters.  Honestly, I think I'd believe a romance between O'Hara and Gus more since their frustration of dealing with Shawn would give them something in common.

The cast continues to bring their characters to life just fine.  James Roday and Dule Hill certainly have the hardest jobs since their performances require so much energy for every scene.  The rest of the cast does fine as most straightmen, bringing perfect comic timing when they do have some funny bits.  I especially get a kick out of how Timothy Omundson plays Lassiter's frustration with Shawn's antics.  The guest star roster is pretty impressive as well featuring the likes of Rachael Leigh Cook, Ally Sheedy, James Brolin, Sendhil Ramamurthy, and Cary Elwes.  (And how a show that prides itself on 80's cultural references let a guest star like Cary Elwes come on without doing one Princess Bride reference is beyond me.  Frankly, I find it inconceivable.)

The set contains all sixteen episodes on four discs with the usual wide screen picture and full surround sound.  The episodes always look and sound great.  The set also features the usual assortment of episode commentaries, deleted scenes, and a gag reel.  Pretty much, if you've bought a set before, you know what to expect here.

For the most part, I did enjoy the fourth season of psych.  While it may not have been their best season to date, it still made me laugh as I watched a decent mystery.  And that's all I really ask from this fun show.

Season 4 Episodes:
1. Extradition: British Columbia
2. He Dead
3. High Noon-ish
4. The Devil is in the Details...and the Upstairs Bedroom
5. Shawn Has the Yips
6. Bollywood Homicide
7. High Top Fade Out
8. Let's Get Hairy
9. Shawn Takes a Shot in the Dark
10. You Can't Handle This Episode
11. Thrill Seekers and Hell Raisers
12. A Very Juliet Episode
13. Death is in the Air
14. Think Tank
15. The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Episode
16. Mr. Yin Presents

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