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October 6, 2015

Psych: Pilot (series premiere)

by Richard Keller, posted Jul 7th 2006 11:02PM

Psych on the USA Network

(S01E01 and E02) Henry Spencer to his son Shawn:  How many hats?

The premise for Psych is clever and unique. Shawn Spencer (James Corday) was trained by his policeman father Henry (Corbin Bernsen) in the art of keen observation. Not only did Sean match his father's skills in this technique, but he may have even exceeded his Dad's abilities.

Now, you are probably screaming into the computer screen 'Why is this so unique? Heck, Monk uses his observational skills all of the time to solve crimes.' Ah, you see, although Henry wanted his son to use his powers for good and follow in his law enforcement footsteps, Shawn just wanted to use his abilities for fun and, possibly, profit. Hence, the reason for the 57 jobs he had since graduation, and the reason he would call the police with tips on unsolved crimes; tips he discoverd by watching the nightly news and just, well, observing.

It was working out just fine for dear old Shawn until he decided to claim one of his most recent rewards from the police. It seems that an overzealous detective and his female partner were a bit curious how Shawn got all of the information he did in order to nab the culprit. In fact, they were pretty sure he was an accomplice to the crime in question (a store robbery) and felt that an arrest wouldn't be out of the question to sweat Shawn a bit.

What's a boy with his skills to do to get out of this dilemma?

Thinking fast on his feet, Shawn suddenly becomes a psychic, complete with fake headaches, seizures, and momentary losses of consciousness. To prove this he begins to spout facts about the police officers that are about to arrest him. Facts that he learned just by observing their actions in the station's lobby and in the interrogation room. Making a believer of some, and infuriating others (the detectives in particular), Shawn is able to avoid arrest. However, the (interim) chief of police sees the scope of his 'psychic' abilities and volunteers him to assist in a kidnapping case. Since there's money and a challenge involved Shawn accepts.

Here the concept of Psych is established: Shawn uses the psychic cover in order to use his observational abilities to help solve crimes. The only ones who know he's lying are his Dad (now retired) and his childhood friend Gus (played by Dule Hill of The West Wing). And, in the end, the concept works well; even better than Monk in many respects.

James Corday should be given credit for this. Although he's been in a number of unforgettable TV shows and movies, he really shines in his role as Shawn Spencer. Part Tom Cruise and part Ben Stiller, Corday shows dramatic, romantic and wacky sides, mostly wacky in the first episode. And, unlike Tony Shalloub's character on Monk you don't cringe in embarrassment at some of Shawn's actions and faults.

Also strong is Corbin Bernsen as Shawn's gruff father, a role that is totally opposite the suave attorney Arnie Becker he played on L.A. Law back in the late 80's and early 90's. I feel that two of the best scenes are with Henry and Shawn together. In both, Henry asks his son to prove his observational skills are up to snuff by asking him how many people were wearing hats in the place they were eating. Both times, once in flashback and once in the present, Shawn nails it on the head. And, even though it barely registers on Henry's face, you know that he is proud of his son.

In addition to the strong performances of Corday and Bernsen I think what really makes the show is that we, the viewing public that has been brought up on a steady diet of procedurals such as Law & Order and CSI, really get involved in solving the mystery along with Sean and Gus. This is done by highlighting all of the items that Sean observes. When he puts them all together you get a sense of satisfaction that you helped solve the crime along with Shawn. This is unlike the procedural shows where you sometimes have a sense of 'What the hell  . . .' while they're trying to solve a mystery.

There are a few minor issues I have with Psych. First, Dule Hill is underutilized in the pilot episode. All his character seems to do is say 'no' a number of times to Shawn's crazy schemes. I hope that as the show progresses Hill's Gus will be fleshed out a bit more. Plus, as he is a pharmaceutical representative on the show, I hope that every single mystery doesn't include some sort of medicine that Gus knows about. That would make it just a bit too tacky for me.

The other issue I have is with the location. Psych is filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia yet the show is based in Santa Barbara, California. I'm sorry, but Vancouver does not look like Santa Barbara, even though they are both on the Pacific coastline. It doesn't matter that they put fake palm trees in some of the scenes to make it look like Southern California; it still looks like Northwestern Canada to me.

That's it for this week. Hopefully, my positive feelings for Psych won't diminish after the series gets into full gear.

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was i watching the same show you all did???

absolutely hated, hated, hated it!!!

really dumb, not funny at all and thoroughly OVER acted!!! a shame, too, because i tuned in with the anticipation of loving it!! boy was i wrong!!

July 13 2006 at 1:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Vancouver! it just makes me flip out when they do this. here i am looking for familiar sights in the show(keep in mind that i live near santa barbra) and i see nothing.not to mention that it might confuse people if they travel to santa barbra and try to find places they saw on the show.

July 11 2006 at 3:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I like the two leads but the whole police division is kind of weak. Part of what makes Monk work is the supporting cast around him. I do think Psych is a great compliment to Monk and makes a great back to back block. I do hope that Dule gets more in later shows because I watched this because of him.

July 09 2006 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Glad to hear this show has at least some good points. I didn't have a chance to watch it as it aired, but I did TiVo it. Definitely looking forward to it now!

July 09 2006 at 5:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was refreshingly surprised by this show. James Roday was perfectly cast as Shawn and while I agree that Dule Hill was underused he has great comedic chemistry with Roday. I like the premise of the show because it doesn't really rely on the psychic gimmick, just the intuitive powers of an everyday person. As long as the writers can maintain the originality of the concept I think this will be an interesting show to watch. Of course, once SciFi Friday starts I'll have DVR it.

July 08 2006 at 12:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ryan S.

This was a good show, but the one thing i couldn't get over, was that i thought that the female detective looked so much like Mary Lynn Rajskub, or Chloe in 24. The resemblance was very close in my opinion.

July 08 2006 at 11:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tv junkie

cool concept and has potential. James Roday is perfect as Shawn! very likable. But some of the characters are just "plain". All the police department casts are either serving-no-purpose (that blond detective), over-the-top (the male head detective) or miscast (the intern chief woman). hopefully, these characters get some depth later on (the blond detective needs to have more character, right now, she's just a stick standing around. the male detective needs to tone down, right now, he's annoying and stupid. the female chief should either be smarter or be replace soon, she needs to standout more and be more believable.) I totally agree that Dule Hill is wasted in this episode, i kept wondering why we need is sidekick that did nothing (very passive). The "crime case" for Shawn to solve in this episode is okay but far-streched a bit. i was surprise that the father-and-son relationship was pretty well done (i thought it was going to be cliche and cheesy, but it was a good back story to set up the character). overall, very charming pilot episode, i'm looking forward for more.

July 08 2006 at 9:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with you on most points, except I thought Dule Hill got some pretty good lines here and there. Especially at the end with the "Psych Out" Man In The Mirror jam.

July 08 2006 at 2:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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