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Comedy With a Side of Crime: Psych

Updated on January 28, 2019

A Real Fake!

Psych debuted on the USA Network in August of 2006. At the time, it got little promotion or attention outside of the channel. However, it ushered in a new era of character focused dramas and coming Fall 2012, it will premiere its seventh season. I have been a loyal viewer and fan since the beginning, but unfortunately since it is not as well-known as other crime shows such as The Closer and NCIS, I have a hard time finding someone to talk about it with. So I decided to dedicate this hub to the genius of the show and why if you haven't seen it already, you might want to.

Psych centers around the hi-jinks of Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and his lifelong friend Burton Guster, better known as Gus (Dule Hill). Shawn convinces the Santa Barbara Police Department to hire him in order to help solve a string of crimes only not just as any consultant, but a Psychic one. His dad, Henry (Corbin Bernsen), finds this out and tries to convince him to back out. Gus, a dedicated pharmaceutical sales representative and straight-laced individual doesn't want any part of it either but of course Shawn with his charm and insightful observations wins them over.

In the pilot episode, Shawn immediately clashes with Head Detective Lassiter, affectionately known as Lassie by Shawn (Timothy Omundson), but charms Chief Vick (Kirsten Nelson) into working with him. Originally cast as Lassiter's partner was Anne Dudek as Det. Lucinda Barry in the pilot, but once it is revealed she is having an affair with Lassiter, she is canned and replaced by Det. Juliet (Jules) O'Hara in the second episode.

Shawn manages to fool everyone into believing he's a psychic except his dad and Gus, who both are well aware of Shawn's antics. He's on the verge of being found out by Lassiter, O'Hara, and various associates who serve as guest stars throughout the entire series but has yet to be caught.

Relationships and Revelations

We learn alot about Shawn through his relationships. One of the deepest relationships he has is with his divorced father with whom he has a particular disdain for. It's revealed in several of the show's opening flashbacks that Henry was a strict father and a dedicated cop. This is in opposition to Shawn's free-spirited and whimsical outlook which prevents him from growing up in practical ways such as having a serious relationship, getting a car, or having a real job. As the series develops, Shawn and Henry develop a mutual understanding for each other and Henry even assists in a couple of cases. In season five, it is revealed that as much as Henry loves helping his son, he loves working for the Santa Barbara Police Department even more so he returns as a consultant who helps determine rather or not it's ok to hire Shawn and Gus out for cases. This occasionally causes conflict as Henry sometimes sides with the department instead of Shawn.

Shawn and Gus are lifelong friends who couldn't be more different. Aside from the obvious fact that Shawn's white and Gus is black, their respective families are revealed to be different as well. Unlike Shawn, Gus does not come from a broken home and still has both parents who are happily married living in his childhood home. Gus also attended college and has a steady career as a pharmaceutical sales representative, while Shawn decidedly saw the world and traveled until coming back home. Gus possesses a more realistic outlook on life while Shawn seems to be eternally twelve. With all of these differences aside, they complement each other well. However, in season two it is revealed that he was once drunkenly married on spring break to a bartender (Kerry Washington).

Gus helps Shawn with hard evidence by accessing various files using his computer or PDA. He also supplies his car as the transportation since Shawn only has a scooter. Gus also has what is known as a "super smeller" which helps detect mysterious odors in some cases. They both do share a mutual love for all things 80's pop culture, making quirky references in almost every episode. Shawn and Gus also love food and women, but still struggle with the ladder. As much as they fight and banter, they really do compliment each other.

Shawn's relationship with Det. O'Hara (Jules) is the most dynamic. It's like any other will-they or won't-they couple in television history (see: Ross and Rachel, Sam and Diane, etc.) but they still maintain the ability to work together. Throughout the seasons, each appear to be involved with other people while the other secretly pines for a chance at romance. In season five, the writers finally give us what we want and Shawn and Juliet begin a relationship. This is to the chagrin of her partner Det. Lassiter, but so far it has not hindered their ability to work together or the show dynamic.

Shawn's mom, Madeleine (Cybill Shepherd) makes her first appearance in season two. Oddly enough she is a psychiatrist who possesses the same kind of memory as Shawn. Shawn was closer to her in childhood and at the beginning of the series maintains a real relationship with him. Madeleine also is rather friendly with Henry and they even share a few moments together, as if to spark a potential reconciliation.

Shawn and Det. Lassiter have a love-hate relationship that eventually becomes one of respect. As much as Lassiter detests Shawn's antics, he eventually hires him to rescue a childhood hero in season two. Lassiter doesn't believe in Shawn's methods but accepts his results as they usually lead to arrests. As the seasons continue, this is one relationship Shawn has that doesn't seem to change.

In each of these relationships, Shawn exposes himself to be a complex person. Selfish and selfless. Whimsical and wounded. Bright and befuddled. However, it does give the show a great layer of vulnerability.

What's Old is New

As I mentioned earlier, this show begins in flashback mode usually and features Gus and Shawn between the ages of 10 and 14. Shawn is about to do something and gets caught by Henry, talks Gus into doing something, has to solve one of his dad's many brain teasers or some combination of all three. It usually refers to something relevant to the case that the episode centers on.

Gus and Shawn frequently mention their childhood and adolescent escapades, especially in episodes where they encounter old schoolmates like Freddie Prinze, Jr. in season five or their high school reunion in season three featuring Shawn's future girlfriend Abigail Lytar (Rachel Leigh Cook).

Pop culture comes in to play a lot and they both mention their love and admiration for various musical acts and actors. For instance in season two, they decidedly go undercover for the show American Duos and in turn audition as the Ebony and Ivory version of Tears For Fears. In season five, they meet one of the members (Curt Smith) of TFF and somehow manage to jam with him.

They also have various icons of the 1980s and 1990s serve as guest stars. For instance in season four Kenan Thompson and Jaleel White play buddies of Gus from his college a capella group. One of season five's episodes, Dual Spires feature the cast of the cult classic Twin Peaks in a send up of sorts.

This show is definitely for any kid who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s or the young at heart. Even older fans will recognize some faces. Shawn's dad who is portrayed by Corbin Bernsen became well-known on the classic 1980s drama series, LA Law. There was also an episode in the fifth season featuring seasoned actors William Devane and Carl Weathers. Gus' uncle was portrayed by John Amos. So there's bound to be someone you recognize in some respect if you watch long enough.

You'll Laugh till You Cry

What I love about Psych is how funny and interesting the episodes are. While it does have the markings of a typical procedural, the cases aren't all the same. One case involved a telenovela, another involved a serial thief, another a zealous Bollywood fan and a couple of Shawn wannabes.

It's also witty in how it addresses fellow shows such as The Mentalist. It's almost like the writers don't fear being compared to another show that's supposedly of it's ilk. But my favorite part is the Psych Outs.

Psych Outs are the outtakes or bloopers that air at the end of the show and usually feature Shawn and Gus with someone else rather it be a regular cast member or a guest star. Unfortunately, I think they haven't been as memorable in recent memory since there is probably someone mad with them singing actual songs and not paying royalties, but nonetheless it's awesome.

If you're quirky, love nostalgia, or just don't understand your parents' deranged sense of fashion, Psych is the show for you. It has the fast-paced dialogue of Gilmore Girls, the silliness of How I Met Your Mother, and the heart of the Wonder Years.

Why this show hasn't garnered more awards and accolades, I don't know. It's unique in it's approach, the writing is intelligent and the promotions are excellent. They always feature a catchy song and the cast in zany getups from an actual music video.

So if you're not doing anything be sure to catch Psych on Wednesday nights at 10pm or on Hulu anytime. Believe me, you'll like it.

Fun Facts

  • James Roday and Maggie Lawson who finally got together onscreen last year have been a real life couple since 2006.
  • Dule Hill is real-life friends with Deon Richmond, the actor who portrayed Bud on the Cosby Show and Jordan on Sister, Sister and is said to look like him.
  • Timothy Omundson also starred on the long running series Judging Amy.
  • Corbin Bernsen's character may love Santa Barbara, but in real life he's an alumni of UCLA.
  • Roday and Hill both serve as producers on the show. Roday has even directed a few episodes in recent seasons.

Catchphrases Galore!

Okay so, I know this is getting a little long but give me this one last caveat. This is my favorite part of Psych: the catchphrases and gestures.

Fist Bump- Before our dear president and first lady picked up on this craze, Shawn and Gus had it down pat.

What?!- It doesn't matter what happened, it just matters what the response is. This never gets old.

Gus being Introduced As...- Yeah, this is never going to stop being awesome!

That's What I'm Talking About- Oh Gus, if only you had another way to prove your swagger. That's okay, we forgive you.

Can We Get Something to Eat?- Even though they are about 10 years past eating like frat boys, it's still sweet to know they like to put it away.

Random Dancing at the End of Cases- So immature, but so silly.

Okay I'm really done now but you get the picture :)!

Season 7 Updates and Information

In the season six finale, we were left with quite possibly the biggest cliffhanger in show history. While working a case that involved former colleagues and friends of Henry Spencer, he was shot and left for dead. Shawn had only figured out his father was at the very end and was racing to reach him but we will have to see how things ended.

But there is good news, Psych fans there is something to look forward to this fall. Season seven is about to air and there is some great news ahead. Show creator Steve Franks confirmed there will be a two hour musical episode and more big guest stars.

Some of the confirmed guest stars include Parminder Nagra (ER) and Garcelle Beauvais (Franklin and Bash) who both play romantic interests for Gus which means he may no longer be No Game Gus any longer.

While season seven is confirmed, season eight is still up in the air. As of now, Psych is officially the longest running show on the network now joining the ranks of fan favorite Monk.

Show Quirks

This part of the hub focuses on the little things we love about Psych and things that have changed over the seasons.

  • Skinny Shawn vs. Chubby Shawn- As much talk as there is about weight among women in Hollywood, James Roday is a highly unique and visible case for men battling the bulge. Generally you know the episodes with a slimmer Shawn are for seasons 1 and 2, while starting in season 3 he picks up a few more pounds.
  • No Game Gus- If you notice, there's at least one episode each season where Gus falls for the absolute wrong woman. And we're not just talking incompatible emotionally but also slightly crazy, widowed, murderous, or criminally minded. I'm still holding out hope for him.
  • Parental Partners- In recent seasons, Shawn's mom has made a cameo at least once a year. And it seems with each situation, she and Shawn's dad almost get close to a reconciliation. But maybe that's just wishful thinking.
  • Cop Consequences- There always seems to be an episodes where someone lets a criminal or witness go, mostly Jules or Lassie but sometimes the patrol officer on duty.
  • Family Affairs- Most seasons feature an episode with everyone's relatives. From the awesome Jane Lynch as Chief Vick's super competitive older sister to William Shatner portraying Juliet's long lost dad.

That's all for now, but I'm sure there are more I've yet to touch on.


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