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September 17, 2014

Psych: The Greatest Adventure in the History of Basic Cable

by Richard Keller, posted Aug 9th 2008 1:56AM

James Roday and Dule Hill of Psych

(S03E04) "You keep a stun gun in the birdhouse? What do you keep in the garden gnome? An M-80?" -- Shawn to his dad, Henry, on his choice of weapon storage.

Ah, now the pieces of the puzzle that are Shawn Spencer are coming together! We've known for years that the younger Spencer has gotten his analytical skills from his father Henry. And, in the first episode of this season, we found out that he gained his recall abilities from his mother. Now we know where he got his sense of adventure and his ability to snow others with his "psychic" abilities.

Meet Jack Spencer -- role model, adventurer, historian...and con artist.

Steven Weber has been in so many dramatic roles lately that it was hard to recall his days as the free-wheeling Brian Hackett on the NBC comedy Wings. Yet, his role as Jack on Psych brought some of Brian Hackett back. At least the free-wheeling portion. Even though Brian had a bit of con artist in him.

At first, I liked Jack as much as Shawn likes him. He's personable, caring, and adventurous. As the episode progressed, this opinion of him changed. He became shifty and greedy and, well, not as great a role model to Shawn as we first thought (which is too bad, because Shawn really looked up to his uncle). You could see that when he first showed up at Henry's house. Even though Shawn is probably edging towards 30 he was definitely showing signs of Young Shawn in his mannerisms and his voice.

I guess you could chalk it up to the stereotypical sibling setup that we have seen on hundreds of television shows previously. The older brother is the one who is mature, serious (sometimes a bit too much), and worldly. The younger brother is rebellious, confrontational and, in many cases, a risk taker. Such was the case with Jack and Henry. Though, in many cases, we tend to side with the younger brother in these situations. This time around, I was personally siding more with Henry than I was with Jack.

Despite my feelings about Jack Spencer, I really enjoyed this episode of Psych and thought it was the strongest of this young season. Some of the comedy and banter that was lost in the first few episodes was back this time around, making it feel like an earlier episode...even though the situation surrounding Shawn and Gus was different than their usual case. There were even a number of comments and situations made by the characters that made me laugh out loud.

One of the reasons that it felt like a normal episode was the fact it was the first episode where all of the principal characters of the show interacted with each other this season. For the first few weeks the members of the Psych Detective Agency and the Santa Barbara Police Department were in separate universes, barely even crossing paths. But, with the book-end (book page?) scenes taking place in the police department interrogation room their meeting was inevitable. I was just a bit sad that there wasn't more interaction between Shawn and Lassie, which makes for some good banter. However, the angry outburst by Jules for Shawn and his pals to confess made up for some of that.

Another reason why this episode felt right was the use of Shawn's much-neglected "psychic" powers. With Uncle Jack unaware that nephew was faking it (even though he said 'You can't snow a snowman'. How ironic.) Shawn was able to use his showmanship to obtain clues to the lost treasure of the pirate Bushard (Bussard?). When you think about it, Shawn would be the perfect person to hunt for the lost treasures of the world due to his photographic memory. Should Psych be canceled one day, they should consider a spinoff featuring the boy as a world adventurer.

Yet another reason why this was a good episode was the editing and, let's face it, the lack of gratuitous product placement. While last week's episode was okay something was missing from it...there were some scenes where the editing was just off. Plus, the placement of the Dunkin Donuts' ad within the show threw off the entire rhythm. You could tell that the producers took some extra care with this week's installment. Possibly due to the scene switches between the present and past events.

A final reason it was a good episode was the further reconciliation between Henry and Shawn. During a phone conference a few weeks ago, star James Roday said that there would be an understanding between the two after Shawn came to the realization that his father wasn't the one who asked for a divorce. You saw some of that here, particularly in the last scene of the episode where they meet at the Red Robin (Oh, there was the gratuitous product placement!). It was a father-to-son chat that didn't feature any animosity, any barbs between them. It was a nice ending to a good episode.

All right, you know what time it is. Since I didn't see one pineapple this week, let's just move into the pop references. At first, it didn't seem like there were going to be that many. But, as the episode progressed they began to come at a furious pace. Mentioned were: sporks, wow wow wubbzy, fedoras, The Rat Pack (in a very amusing back-and-forth), the bands 'Tony! Toni! Tone!' and 'Wet Wet Wet', Puma sneakers, Erasermate, Jack Lord and director John Woo. Movies references this week were Idle Hands, Iron Giant and The Secret of Nimh and The Secret of my Success, which apparently had the same secret.

Next time on Psych -- Shawn and Gus go back to the 70s. And, if this episode isn't full of retro references I'll be shocked.

What did you think of Steven Weber as Uncle Jack?
Great! Reminded me of his days on Wings.283 (84.0%)
Okay. Neither here nor there.48 (14.2%)
Not good. He wasn't the right fit for the show.6 (1.8%)

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Allison Solow

I think if the product placement is clever and fits into the flow of the show, I'm cool with it. On the New Adventures of Old Christine, she had an episode where she was hooked on Red Lobster. It was funny. Another ep had Richard -- a contractor -- going to Home Depot. Nothing wrong with that. It was real. This Red Robin bit didn't bother me at all. Psych drops all kinds of pop references, why shouldn't they eat in real places? Also, if a product placement is the cost of keeping the show thriving, so be it.

August 14 2008 at 11:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jproductions17

I'm ok with the normal product placement in Psych. I mean the show is all about product placement considering the reference things constantly. I was ok with the Red Robin thing, sure the milkshake thing was a plug, but I can believe them discussing it. The DD last week was bad, that made no sense and came out of no where. I thought Red Robin was worked in fine the way Jack was describing it and it was just a regular Red Robin. I agree with Hair product placement can be fine if its used naturally. I discuss products all the time with friends. If its natural, its ok, but if its forced, then thats bad.

August 10 2008 at 7:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jimmy stamp

Product placement doesn't normally bother me, and I agree that it fits in with a show that so heavily references popular culture. That said, Shawn's comment about the milkshake was a bit over the top - especially placed right before one of the most poignant conversations in the show's history. Wasn't it enough that the establishing shot lingered on the Red Robin sign for so long?

Uncle Jack was a great ad to the episode and added some great new character development to Shawn. But what about Gus? will we get more of a look into his life? It'd be nice to see him play a greater role this seaso.

I've been enjoying the slightly changed format, although it was nice to see the guys working together (and being interrogated by!) the SBPD. More of that please! "You smell nice" was a funny touch in Shawn's note to Jules.

August 10 2008 at 7:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jake

Part of the fun nature of the show is the product placement, it's not like these characters can't live in the real world and guess what -- there is a red robin around, so why can't shawn and his father eat there?

This show is all about the references.

August 10 2008 at 12:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jake's comment
Hairtux

Phil is spot on. I actually prefer it when TV show characters talk about real world places and products as it makes it seem more realistic. I'd rather they eat at a Red Robin than at a Mega Mooby Muffin or something, because at least people can relate to a Red Robin. And what if Spencer actually DOES love the shakes there? Haven't you ever talked highly of some product to your friends?

The way the show has been doing it so far only helps to make these people seem more real. The wrong way to do it, in my opinion, is what Eureka is doing with Degree. That sucks. Psych has the right idea.

August 10 2008 at 12:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
amazo

don't forget the homeskillet reference. (juno)


i think all of you are way overreacting on the fact that there are product placements. it only cuts into the show if you let it. i don't really care, and i am able to enjoy the show like I always have, and will.

August 09 2008 at 10:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John

No one mentioned the fact that Shawn and Gus actually are on Facebook? =) (since Shawn mentioned having more friends on facebook than his dad, I was doing a search no more than a minute later...) And he hasn't approved my request yet, nor has Guster. Darnit.

August 09 2008 at 5:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to John's comment
tv.squad.zkam

Interesting... If you look at Burton Guster's friends, you'll see Shawn listed twice, with 2 different profiles. Also, check Shawn's friends - besides Guster, there's Mohinder Suresh (from Heroes), and a Lavender Gooms - wasn't that one of the silly names that Shawn has used? Also - no Jules?

August 12 2008 at 1:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Argus

Bushard is actually spelled Bouchard generally.

Great ep in my opinion, I enjoy when formulas are mixed up.

August 09 2008 at 1:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Heltsley

I think he meant to say lack of a _blatant_ product placement. Last week's Dunkin' Donuts was horrendous; this week with Red Robin was much more subtle. I just watched the episode an hour ago, and had already forgotten that it was there. It just wasn't as "in your face" as last week's. In fact, during the episode, I didn't even realize that was the product placement... I hadn't been thinking about one or looking for it, however, so maybe that's why I didn't take special notice.

August 09 2008 at 11:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Paul K

Can't say I'm too bothered either. Although I am not a big fan of gratuitous product placement, I also realize that these shows are designed to attract advertisers...and I am skipping every commercial with my DVR. If advertisers know I am not watching their commercials, they won't advertise, and my favorite shows will get canceled. I'm willing to put up with a little gratuitous product placement to be able to skip the commercials. Gotta pick your poison.

August 09 2008 at 11:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Vince

No ill will for either from me. I realize that they have to do something considering that I'm skipping all the regular commercials anyway. It's like TV was in the 50's (not that I was alive back then)...

August 09 2008 at 10:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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