January 9, 2014

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Psych”


PSYCH:  Wednesday 10PM on USA

It’s sort of fitting that PSYCH, a show now a little past its prime, kicked off its 8th and perhaps final season with a parody of late 1990s Guy Ritchie lad thrillers like Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels–movies even Ritchie doesn’t make anymore, now that he’s knee-deep in the world of hugely-budgeted franchises (he’s due to follow his Sherlock Holmes pair with The Man From UNCLE).  Along the way, Psych found time to nod in the direction of 2000’s Sexy Beast, the original 1969 The Italian Job and indulge in many Harry Potter gags, none of them exactly a fresh subject (although the Sexy Beast bit was quite good).  It was, at least, a change of pace from Psych‘s usual territory of 1980s pop culture jokes.

The premiere, written (with Consulting Producer Kell Cahoon) and directed by series creator Steve Franks, took the show to England, although a meta-joke established that the production, unlike venturesome USA stablemate Covert Affairs, didn’t actually travel anywhere.  The episode brought Shawn (James Roday) and Gus (Dule Hill) to London for another go-around with dashing and recurring jewel thief Pierre Despereaux (Cary Elwes), here revealed–or is he?–to have been an undercover Interpol agent all along.  There was no murder until the last few minutes, and instead Shawn and Gus mangled Englishisms (will the very existence of spotted dick ever be not funny?) and verbally fenced with Despereaux and a hood played by real-life Ritchie vet Vinnie Jones, while Shawn proved himself incapable of saying the name “Dierdre” (a character played by guest star Olivia D’Abo, who seemed to be around for no other reason than to be straight woman to that gag).

Franks likes to do these kinds of parody episodes, but truth be told, he’s not the world’s most deft visual stylist as a director, and his Ritchie-isms were mostly a matter of a few smash cuts, freeze frames and graphics; the hour never suggested the energy or low-budget ingenuity (or violence) of the real thing.  Even worse, Psych wasn’t even as funny as the actual Lock, Stock or Snatch.  It was, at best, pleasant, which is about where Psych is these days.  Moving the episode out of Santa Barbara meant a week away from the usual supporting cast (Timothy Omundson’s Lassiter made a couple of brief appearances), and Shawn didn’t have to play fake-psychic for once, yet it didn’t really freshen up the formula.  Roday and Hill still interact gracefully and seem to enjoy each other’s company, and the writers come up with a few good quips per week, but after 8 seasons, Psych doesn’t have a lot of inspiration left.

The ratings, however, remain fairly good, hovering around 0.8, so USA, which has been floundering lately with its original programming, may not yet be ready to kill off Psych.  The network has already extended its 8th season order by 5 episodes for a total of 13, and the cancellation of Back In the Game means that Maggie Lawson, who’d more or less left (she’ll continue to appear in some Season 8 episodes) is free once again to return.  Perhaps the show has one more run in it, but based on the premiere, and even last month’s ambitious musical special, it may be better for all concerned to give the series a dignified and pre-planned exit before it leaves feet-first.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."