Saturday, July 15, 2006

TV: Psych

Oh my god I am miserable. It's been over 100 degrees in Ojai for about a week now. And my apartment stores up heat like a camel stores water, so even at night I've been sweating and suffering. (Not that it's all that much cooler outside at night anyway.) My fans are running all day long, my window A/C unit is running all day long, but it's a piece of shit that only cools about four square feet in the kitchen. I'm about ready to set myself on fire so I can cool off a bit.

Plus I've got a nice little summer cold going. Whoopee! No Saturday Sidebar Update today, because it's too damn much effort. Thought I'd better put something up, though, to give you folks some new material to look at. I should say, by the way, I'm very pleased with the massive feedback I've received over my Top Ten Sitcoms list. Definitely makes me want to watch some more old Bob Newharts, Dick Van Dykes, and Andy Griffiths. Too bad stupid TV Land is running a Munsters marathon today; that show, I've seen enough of.

On to the new. I've caught the first couple of episodes of USA's new detective comedy, Psych. It's about Shawn Spencer (James Roday), a guy with photographic memory and acute attention to details, which helps him to solve cases the police can't. But in order for the police to accept his suspiciously well-informed tips, rather than locking him away on suspicion of being an inside man on the crimes, he has to pretend the clues come to him through psychic powers. He enlists best friend Gus (Dule Hill) to help him out, and the Psych Detective Agency is born.

I liked the show more than I thought I would. I hate psychics, who are, one and all, without exception, vile con artists and charlatans who prey on the simple-minded and bereaved. I was hoping this show would really take a shot at psychics, deflate the positive TV exposure they've been getting through psychic-endorsing shows like Medium and Ghost Whisperer, but it quickly became clear that wasn't the way Psych was going. It's more in the Monk mold -- really smart guy with a gimmick notices stuff the cops don't. Period. Nothing really positive or negative is said about real-life "psychics."

But it's an entertaining show, and often very funny. Roday and Hill play very well off each other (though I find it strange Hill accepted a second banana role like this after coming off such a long, high-profile gig like The West Wing). I don't think I've ever seen Roday in anything before, but I like him. He's a slick fast talker, a character-type which can be grating, but which he makes engaging and humorous. There's a whole bit with his semi-estranged father, played by Corbin Bernsen, that hasn't done much for the two episodes I've seen; I hope they don't go to that well too often. Hill is the reluctant dupe, who keeps getting talked into outrageous situations by his best friend; he also can be funny, but I hope they back off on his "I won't do it okay I will" shtick soon, and make him more proactive. Another casting note I find interesting: in the pilot episode, the young female police detective who was being set up as Roday's potential love interest, was played by Anne Dudek; by the next episode, she's been jettisoned (with one dubbed line explaining that she was "transferred") in favor of a new character filling the same role, played by Maggie Lawson. Stuff like that amuses me.

As for the mysteries -- again, it's just like Monk. They're incidental to the antics of the investigators. They're not especially interesting, or fair to the audience, in that they can't really be solved until some vital piece of information pops up in the last couple minutes before the arrest. It's the characters that have to hold your interest, and so far they do.

As far as summer detective series go, Psych hasn't quite captured my attention the way The Closer has, but it's worthwhile viewing, with potential to get even better.

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