February 28, 2013



PSYCH:  Wednesday 10PM on USA

PSYCH felt every one of its 7 seasons in its premiere tonight.  The show’s premise has always been thin–goofy detective Shawn Spencer (James Roday) pretends to be a psychic and, with sidekick Gus (Dule Hill) gets himself hired as a consultant by the Santa Barbara Police Department to solve crimes–but in the past it’s had enough bounce, verve and pop culture-referencing one-liners to keep itself airborne. Roday and Hill aren’t as spry as they used to be, however, and neither is the writing staff, with the result that Psych feels like it’s in need of a rest, or at least a comfy chair.

The season premiere, written by series creator Steve Franks and Executive Producer Bill Callahan and directed by Mel Damski, picked up exactly where the Season 6 finale had cliffhangered, with Shawn’s cop dad Henry (Corbin Bernsen) about to be shot by a former colleague (one-time Barney Miller cop Max Gail) he’d figured out was dirty.  Henry spent the episode in the hospital, while Shawn and Gus went after Wojo, with the unofficial help of police chief Vick (Kirsten Nelson), usually hostile Detective “Lassie” Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) and Juliet O’Hara (Maggie Lawson), who apart from being a detective has also graduated, after years of will-they-or-won’t-they, into being Shawn’s girlfriend.  Shawn swiftly connected the shooter to a writer/arms dealer, and by the end of the hour, the bad guys were dispatched (mostly at the barrel of Juliet’s gun), and Henry was well on the road to recovery.

The conceit of the episode was that Henry being shot had made Shawn half-crazy, more vengeful and potentially violent than his usual playful self (references were made to Lethal Weapon), but Psych can’t really handle that kind of character development.  Despite the supposedly raised stakes, for the most part Shawn’s quipping crimesolving was only different from the norm because he broke a lot of glass along the way–and the way Roday played those scenes, even such emotional outbreaks half-felt like gags.

Much like Monk in its final seasons, Psych has gone past merely being a procedural to seeming as though every episode is assembled from a Mad-Libs script program.  Gus lays out the reasons the pair shouldn’t take a particular case, Shawn cons him into participating, Lassiter swears Shawn’s deductions are way off-base and is inevitably proved wrong, and our heroes, after a “Shawn-vision” zoom or two on some clues the cops missed, save the day.  As noted, it literally took years for Shawn and Juliet to become a couple, making the interpersonal developments on, say, a CSI show seem positively speedy.  Despite all that, Psych can zing when its wit and charm obscure tired plotting, but the show feels now like it’s lost a step (you can almost imagine the writers scanning websites for more John Hughes and Growing Pains references they can throw into the scripts).  Without buoyancy, Psych is just dumb.

The powers that be at USA Network aren’t unaware of Psych‘s increasing age, and although the show’s end hasn’t been officially announced, the plan is reportedly for Psych to have one more season after the current one and wrap things up after the 8th go-around.  That’s certainly the right direction, but one wishes the show’s fairly solid ratings (last season it was mostly in the 0.8-0.9 territory) hadn’t made the network strain for more seasons than the series can comfortably fill.  It would be a shame for a reliably fun show to be remembered, like so many series before it, for those last hours that outstayed their welcome.  It doesn’t take a psychic to figure out that Psych could be at that place very soon.

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."