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What We’re Watching: I Know, You Know, That ‘Psych’ Is a Great Show

The characters Shawn Spencer and Burton Guston looking into the distance.
USA Network

… and I know, you know, that I’m riffing the theme song. Embrace this tv show, and bring a friend. The worst thing you could do is not watch Psych once again.

I don’t know exactly why, but I’ve gone down the rabbit hole that is Psych again. It’s one of the best shows with an eccentric detective and police alliance to grace our televisions in the past 10 to 15 years—not because it did anything truly original, but because of the vibe of the show.

If you aren’t familiar with Psych yet, I almost envy you because you get to experience the greatness of the show for the very first time. You’re probably wondering what makes it different from other notable Sherlock-Holmes-inspired detective series such as Monk, The Mentalist, House, etc. In this case, it’s the sheer absurdity of the program, something that nearly prevented me from watching it in the first place.

The series begins with an introduction to Shawn Spencer (James Roday), a man trained from birth to obsessively observe everything around him. His father, Henry Spencer (Corbin Bernsen) was a police officer and wanted Shawn to follow in his footsteps. Henry’s wish meant endless sessions of “Close your eyes and tell me how many hats are in the room” and “How are these two seemingly unrelated events actually related?” type questions for young Shawn.

Those decades of training have turned Shawn into a genius of a detective with an eidetic memory, who is now able to spot and link the clues that everyone else routinely misses (sort of like Sherlock Holmes). But wait, did I call Shawn “a man?” A more accurate description would certainly be “manchild.” He’s irresponsible, reckless, and impulsive to the point of self-sabotage.

Not only does his personality make him a terrible fit for police work, but it also means that no one believes he’s capable of deducing the information in such a genius fashion. So Shawn devices an “obvious” solution. Pretend to be a psychic!

I’ll admit, that’s the part that lost me when I saw my wife watching the show for the first time. But as I continued to walk in on her watching it, it kept pulling my interest. Finally, I broke down and binged it to catch up with her. Now, years later, we’re rewatching the whole series.

A Seriously Funny Show

One of the best things about Psych is that it’s a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously (not counting the stilted Pilot, that is). Shawn’s Watson-like partner, Burton Guster (Dule Hill) is nearly as eccentric as Shawn. And unlike most Watson characters, almost every episode requires Burton’s input to solve the case.

That’s due in part to his pharmacology knowledge, but also down to his “super sniffer.” Yes, that’s what they call his incredible sense of smell. And while he’s often there in order to pull Shawn back to reality, he’s ironically often the one who’s seriously convinced that the murderer is actually a ghost or an alien.

In the end, Psych is a show willing to have fun for the sake of fun. For instance, the theme song constantly changes to suit the vibe of the episode; when Shawn finds himself cast as the lead in a Spanish Soap Opera (yes, really!), the theme song switches to Spanish; and in an episode that involves a comic book convention, the theme song takes on a superheroic sound.

And it doesn’t take long to figure out that every episode has pineapple somewhere in it. Why is this? Well, just because. However, this doesn’t mean that the show can’t be serious—because it can be. The season finales are often quite serious, whether the team is tracking a serial killer or a beloved character gets shot. But, the show continuously jumps from funny to serious without tripping over itself. In the end, it’s not just these moments that make the show great—it’s the cast’s chemistry that sells it.

Everyone Has a Part to Play

The series begins with a strained relationship between Shawn and his father, but they eventually get closer over the course of several episodes. Moments of fatherly advice are played both for sentimentality and for laughs.

Backing up Shawn, Henry, and Guster, are Detectives Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) and Juliet O’Hara (Maggie Lawson). Each character brings something necessary to the show, whether it’s a rival, a love interest, begrudging respect, or an encouraging voice. In the end, they all fit into this world of absurdity. Also, while the detectives might seem normal at first, the truth is eventually revealed—like when Lassiter showcases an honest-to-goodness “crap list” on paper that he updates in real-time.

Come for the Mystery, Stay for the Laughs

Ultimately, Psych is a detective show, so half the fun lies in trying to figure out whodunnit. And, spoiler alert: It’s not always the well-known actor guest-starring for the episode, so don’t fall for that red herring.

But then, if that was all there was to it, Psych would be a boring show. After all, we’ve all likely seen the “detective who breaks onto the scene before the cops arrive” shows (hello Elementary) as well as the “detective who always thinks he’s right” (hi House) ones. But truly, I don’t think that any other detective show has been quite so self-aware or willing to embrace its own silliness as Psych—which is probably why it became so popular, culminating with eight seasons and two movies (with more on the way).

You can watch all eight seasons of Psych along with its first movie on Amazon Prime with a Prime subscription. Also, you can binge all eight seasons and both movies on NBC’s Peacock streaming service for free with commercials.

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson is the Editor in Chief of Review Geek and is responsible for the site's content direction. He has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smart home enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »