Welcome to our newest bi-weekly column, Prime Time, where different writers pick some of their favorite past shows and talk about what made them standout from the crowd. To read past installments, go here.
Worldwide, there are approximately 2.1 million television shows that have ever existed throughout entertainment history. 99.9% of them you’re probably never going to watch, but within that .1% could well enough lie a show that’ll stick with you for the rest of your life; a “television treasure” if you will. Maybe that will end up being a hundred different shows for you, or maybe it’ll only be one, but some shows are designed to just fade away with time, while others are crafted to be the best they can possibly become. One of the enduring shows, for me personally, is USA Network’s Psych.
Psych is a detective comedy series that ran on USA from 2006 to 2014, for a grand total of eight seasons. Having a father who was notorious for being a strict police officer, Shawn Spencer (James Roday) has grown up with exceptional observance skills passed down upon him from his family. One day, after watching a news report regarding a local robbery, Shawn calls in to the police station having solved the case just by watching the live report. However, when Spencer’s deductions turn out to be correct, the police become suspicious that he may be an accomplice to the robbery and threaten to arrest him. With no alternative and no way to prove he didn’t commit the robbery, Shawn lies to the police and claims to be a psychic. However, when the Santa Barbara detective agency brings him onto a kidnapping case (mostly in a bid to prove he’s lying,) Shawn brings childhood friend Burton “Gus” Guster (Dule Hill) to help keep his lie going.
There were a lot of fantastic elements that went into making the show as popular as it was. Not only did James Roday and Dule Hill have a remarkable on-screen chemistry together, but all the detective cases they worked on with one another brought about some of the best comedic moments ever seen in a detective series. Sort of like an “Anti-CSI,”Psych was always a bit tongue in cheek towards its fellow crime dramas. One running gag throughout the series, for example, is the crime drama The Mentalist popping up in a dialogue every now and then; a show, on CBS, that many claimed borrowed a similar theme from Psych in it being about a fake psychic helping solve crimes using his keen perception skills. In one dialogue, Shawn quips about how it feels “Almost like a carbon copy of their lives.” Either way, this show may be rooted in the crime drama universe, but what made Psych stand out so well from the crowd is how much it loved flipping the stereotypical detective dramas on their heads.
Yet, what was most important of all about Psych was the message that lay at its core: “Be an adult when you need to, but stay a kid when you can.” To the regular viewer, Shawn and Gus really were like a pair kids throughout the series’ run; always getting themselves into messes they needed to be saved from, breaking the rules without much thought to it, things like that. However, their mistakes aren’t really what defined these characters for eight years, it was the charismatic joy they always brought into their lives. Just about everyone else in the show, from Shawn’s father to work rival Detective Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson,) lived their lives like a typical stick in the mud would, all business – little pleasure. Shawn, on the other hand, was never afraid to live the life he wanted, refusing to care if people thought of him as childish in the process. What mattered first and foremost is that he was happy perusing the unconventional life to the fullest alongside best friend Gus, even when Gus was trying to fit himself into the social norms of what an adult should be.
That doesn’t mean Shawn never had his moments to grow as an adult too. He started a business around his keen observational skills by opening a psychic detective business for hire. He eventually went on to win the heart of workplace associate Juliet O’ Hara (Maggie Lawson) and proposed to her in the series finale. He saved countless lives and stopped numerous criminals because he would never shy away from doing things differently from the Santa Barbara Detective force. And on the opposite side of things, while Gus always tried to base himself more as an adult with a stable job, sometimes he needed to learn from Shawn in how to live life with a child-like wonder.
Despite lasting eight years, many fans were disappointed to hear about the television show ending in 2014, which really gives you a perspective on how well the team behind Psych was able to keep its viewers for the long haul. From an episode that spoofed Hitchcock tropes, to a full-fledged television musical, Psych did anything and everything it could to have a fun time while also providing a fun experience for its fan base. If you haven’t already checked this comedy gem out for yourself, I highly recommend you binge watch as many episodes on Netflix as you possibly can. Psych could very well be the unconventional, timeless treasure that’ll be appreciated for years to come.