Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Second Season Of Psych Progresses The Characters Some, But Is Mostly Just Repeating The Gimmick.

The Good: Very funny, Solidly entertaining, Decent acting, Enjoyable plots.
The Bad: Repetitive plots, Moments the characters do not seem as smart, Somewhat more predictable.
The Basics: Psych returns in its second season as a repetitive, episodic show with fun guys who solve crimes using the powers of observation while pretending to be psychic.

My wife has an appreciation for Psych, which is why - in rapid succession - I have seen Season 1 (reviewed here!) and now Season 2. The show is entertaining and I am trying to differentiate between quality and enjoyment. In the second season of Psych, the show is fairly repetitive in that the plots are episodic, not serialized, with often ridiculous cases and fun dialogue. But because the characters seldom develop and the show is so plot-based, it is more enjoyable than it is great. In fact, the show is fun, but it is hard to recommend anyone add it to their permanent collection, as opposed to just watch the episodes.

Psych, like Bones, Monk and Wonderfalls, is a series with a simple premise - man solves crimes by being exceptionally observant and smart while pretending to be a psychic - with episodic plots whereby the characters find themselves in ridiculous situations that are resolved by the episode's end. There is no sense of consequence or growth and instead, the show is more about "this is the situation the characters get in this week." Gus and Sean find themselves involved in cases for the Santa Barbara Police Department that involve ridiculous circumstances or predicaments. In its second season, Psych is pretty much a typical detective show with a comedic undertone that is entertaining.

In the second season of Psych, Shawn and Gus try to save the life of a judge on American Duos who is hated by everyone. Shawn appears to have gone off the deep end when he accuses a dinosaur of killing a man and has to go up against a Treasury agent and psychic who are breaking up a counterfeiting ring. When a jockey is killed, the team has to figure out who committed the murder and why, as well as when a model is killed. The pair has to try to prevent a murder when a student at a prep school overhears a teacher planning a murder.

The families of Gus and Shawn become more embroiled with their cases when Gus's uncle, whom Burton (Gus) is named after comes to town and Gus has to pretend to be the psychic. Burton's parents are implicated in a murder and blackmail in their neighborhood. And the pair has to use Shawn's father, Henry, to break a missing person's case at a retirement home. The cases are esoteric, like involving a mummy and Henry's secret lodge of dueling philanthropists.

Throughout the sixteen episode season, Shawn and Henry verbally spar frequently and their relationship begins to progress with excruciating slowness. So, for example, in the penultimate episode of the season, Henry reveals to Shawn that he is ready to start dating again and Shawn becomes flustered by that. But, it has taken almost thirty episodes before Henry is comfortable enough to let his son know he is ready to move on from the woman who abandoned him. More often than not, though, the jokes becomes plot-convenient character revelations as opposed to something genuinely within the established character. So, while a feud between Henry and Gus's parents might feel organic, Henry religiously watching a Mexican telenovela religiously and mixing up Shawn and his character on the show just seems cheap. It's also much more predictable.

In fact, the second season of Psych is quite a bit more predictable than the first season, though it is generally more enjoyable. While the show hinges on any number of reversals, in this season the show begins to truly telegraph itself. In "There's Something About Mira," the 1987 clip that opens the show has the young Gus and young Shawn swearing off marriage in perpetuity, so it is not at all surprising when a terrible private eye following Gus reveals that he was hired by Gus's wife and a lost chapter in Gus's history is suddenly exposed. The show is fairly smart about such things, trying hard to make them work, but the more backstory that gets filled in, the less likely it seems that Gus and Shawn would have remained such steadfast friends.

That said, the cast of Psych is remarkably stable in the second season. The main characters are the same from the first season and are:

Shawn Spencer - He continues to pretend to be a psychic in order to make money off the Santa Barbara police department. His investigative skills are hot, but he is challenged by a woman who claims to be psychic and children who do not believe in psychic powers. He continues to get Gus into trouble, but when Gus's psychotic ex-wife seems to be taking control of his life, he risks everything to save his best friend,

Burton Guster - tries to escape Shawn before giving in and accepting that being a sidekick sleuth is pretty cool. He charms his way into several situations, though he is irked when Shawn gets a role on the telenovela that he enjoys watching. He tries to keep his family together by proving to his uncle that he is pursuing a worthy life and exonerating his parents from a murder. He poses as a model and uses a murder at Henry's lodge to network as he is still a pharmaceutical representative,

Carlton Lassiter - Starts the season on a real streak of closing cases. He is more authoritative and in charge in the workplace as head detective and much less of a buffoon than he was characterized as in the first season. He takes Juliet under his wing, though he becomes very competitive with her when he learns she broke his Detective Exam record by .2 points,

Juliet O'Hara - The detective who is not disappointed when Shawn is called in on a case. She believes in psychic phenomenon and helps to interpret the zany clues Shawn gives to find hard leads in the cases they work. She and Shawn get closer and closer, almost kissing, though Juliet is embarrassed when her attempt at friendship in the office is interpreted as sexual harassment,

Interim Police Chief Karen Vick - Is not getting any sleep with the newborn around, so she hires Shawn and Gus to find her a credible nanny. She is faster to include and cut out the detectives and tries to set Henry up with a friend of hers,

and Henry Spencer - The retired detective finds himself more and more frequently at crime scenes that his son is investigating. His rigid exterior begins to soften and he tries harder to bond with his son.

On DVD, the second season of Psych is rich with commentary tracks and has great guest stars. The four-disc set features deleted scenes and featurettes as well and they, like the show, are very fun. But having anticipated so many of the criminals and the jokes the first time around, I have serious doubts as to whether even a second viewing of Psych Season Two would be worthwhile. This is a good, fun show, but it is not enduringly great.

For other worthwhile second seasons of comedies, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Frasier - Season Two
Gilmore Girls - The Complete Second Season
Friends - The Second Season


For other film and television reviews, be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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