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September 3, 2015

Shawn's dad in Psych vs. Michael's mom in Burn Notice

by Debra McDuffee, posted Jan 29th 2009 2:02PM
Sharon Gless as Madeline Westen in Burn NoticeTwo of my favorite summer shows, Psych and Burn Notice, have something in common. Well, two things. First of all, they are finally back for the second half of their current seasons on the USA Network. The other is that the main characters have an obnoxious parent.

Shawn's dad in Psych, Henry Spencer (played with personality and perfection by Corbin Bersen), is tough on Shawn, yet has a tender side. Michael's mom in Burn Notice, Madeline Westen (played with obnoxious delight by Sharon Gless), is rough around the edges but loves her son like crazy.

They are fun to watch, sometimes a little bit annoying, but always entertaining. So who comes out on top as leading obnoxious parent? Who's the biggest embarrassment to their child? Read on ...

I haven't even started writing this category and I already know it's going to be a tough call. Madeline wears garish jewelry and chain-smokes. My son would be mortified if I showed as much cleavage as Madeline does. Her clothes are loud (and low cut; we've determined that) and her hair is teased and wild. She's probably pretty typical Miami ... yowza!

Henry nearly always sports a loud Hawaiian shirt and boat shoes, which seems somewhat out of place for Santa Barbara. But he's neat and clean. Very clean, in fact. And the flowered robe he was wrapped in after Shawn caught him in a bubble bath just might tip the scales a bit ... but for this category, I have to give the props to Madeline. She looks pretty embarrassing every day; I've only seen Henry in a flowered robe once.

Corbin Bernsen as Henry Spencer in PsychPersonality quirks
OK, Shawn's dad takes the aforementioned bubble baths, and gets nervous and sappy around women. He's also one of the most domestic men on television, cooking with an apron and well, the bubble baths. Madeline started the series as a hypochondriac and calls Michael to come help her -- with anything -- at the drop of a hat. All Henry wants from Shawn these days seems to be a fishing trip with his son, but whoo-boy, was he a tough dad when Shawn was a kid.

Henry all but tortured poor Shawn as a youngster, putting him through observations tests to hone his skills and always staying one step ahead of him. Shawn couldn't get away with anything! Sure, Madeline is more needy, but Henry's parenting was just so unorthodox that the golden ticket for this category goes to Henry.

Controlling behavior
OK, so here's the thing. The place where Madeline is going to come out on top, no matter what Henry does. Henry had a lot more control over Shawn when he was a child. Henry was always onto Shawn's schemes, and he'd catch him and one-up him, like when Shawn tried to sneak off during a field trip to the aquarium to swim with the dolphins. As adults, though, Shawn bests his dad on a regular basis. He always wins the "guess the Christmas present contest," and in a recent episode, he steals Henry's boat right out from under him.

Madeline, on the other hand, is all about the control over the adult Michael. As a child, it seems like Michael had the upper hand; we hear stories of his rebellious nature coupled with knowing that Madeline was doing the best she could for where she was at that point in her life. But now, Michael's got guilt: guilt for the way he treated his mom both as a child and when he was a covert operative, always sneaking about and hiding things from her, including his location.

So this, the tie-breaker, goes to Madeline, for having her thumb on her kid in the present; honorable mention to Henry for besting his 12-year-old.

There you have it -- Madeline Westen wins the crown for most obnoxious, embarrassing parent on the USA Network. Any comparisons you think I missed?

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I like Madeline much more than Henry. Her interactions with and control of her badass ex-spy son are much funnier than the family bickering on Psych. The Spencer's are like a regular family with quirks, the Westons are like this strange domestic otherworld from Michael's actual life.

January 30 2009 at 10:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really dislike both of those characters. I'd add the mom in In Plain Sight too. She's worse than those other two.

January 29 2009 at 9:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't follow Psych, so of obviously I would say Madelaine. A better question is, who would like Walter Bishop for a dad?

January 29 2009 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Funny article.

The best thing about this is that you basically said Sgt. Cagney is better than Arnie Becker and that's why I can't stop chuckling ^_^

January 29 2009 at 4:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'd much rather have Henry as my dad then Madeline as my mom. Sure Henry seemed like kind of dick to Shawn when they were kids but when you're a kid everything you're parents do seems like a dick move (said in my best Monarch voice of course) so I don't think I'd even count that. Now that they are older Henry is totally the kind of guy I wouldn't mind hanging with every so often.

January 29 2009 at 3:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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