'Psych' hits the comedy bullseye

Shawn and Gus do their signature fist-bump in USA Network's "Psych." (Photo courtesy of talktvworld.com)
Shawn and Gus do their signature fist-bump in USA Network's "Psych." (Photo courtesy of talktvworld.com)

By Riley Simpson
Associate Editor-in-Chief
“Under-the-radar” is a good way to describe USA Network’s “Psych.” Every Thursday morning, I wander around the hallways, preying on friends or acquaintances to ask them if they saw the hilarious episode last night. But about halfway through my question, it dawns on me that this friend/acquaintance doesn’t know the first thing about “Psych.”
“Psych” tells the tale of detective-wannabe Shawn Spencer (James Roday) who pretends to be a psychic in order to work on murder cases for the Santa Barbara Police Department.
Shawn can pull off the psychic bit thanks to his amazing powers of observation and his ability to make wild accusations that turn out to be correct.
Since 2006, “Psych” has been tickling me pink with its laugh-a-minute episodes. What makes the comedy work boils down to two things: Roday and his co-star Dulé Hill, who plays Gus, Shawn’s best friend and partner.
Roday makes Shawn Spencer into the perfect 80’s movie-loving slacker—believe me, he stuffs as many movie references into each scene as possible. He’s an anti-hero — he fakes leg cramps so he doesn’t have to chase gunmen and screams like a toddler when someone chases him — and isn’t an all-knowing and infallible detective like Adrian Monk (of USA’s recently ended and terribly missed show “Monk”).
Shawn is, for lack of a better word, an idiot. Whenever he mispronounces a word or phrase — like mistaking a 401k for a 502k — he always covers his tracks by saying, “I’ve heard it both ways.” Gets me every time.
And Roday isn’t the only one getting laughs on “Psych.” As Gus, Hill is the perfect straight man to go along with Roday’s eccentric character.
But in recent episodes, Hill has drifted away from setting up every punch line and earning some yuks for himself — he sometimes fakes leg cramps, too, as he and Shawn try to out-sissy each other.
The best moments are when Hill and Roday have rapid-fire banter, fitting in even more 80’s references: a police officer will say, “We found prints.” Shawn will ask, “Was he in a little red corvette?” Then Gus will ask, “Under the cherry moon?” “Finger prints!” the officer says back.
Of course, every great show/work/masterpiece has its drawbacks. Some episodes become too caught up in the interesting theme or subject it works with.
For instance, Shawn and Gus might be investigating a kidnapping in Chinatown, and then the rest of the episode is scenes involving Chinese culture that are unrelated to the kidnapping.
Another drawback: “Psych” relies on a generic detective story outline for each episode, like one might see in every “CSI” or “Law & Order” show.
It starts with the murder, and then they investigate for a while — always talking to a bartender that knows too much for a bartender— they get too close, get thrown off the case, break the rules and investigate more, crack the case, get chased, have the police come and arrest the bad guys and get a pat on the back by the end credits.
Sure this format gets tiring, but its the comedy of “Psych” that keeps it interesting and original.