Monday, October 5, 2015

The Fast Demise Of Psych Comes With The Erratic Eighth Season Of The Show!

The Good: Ends well
The Bad: Terrible stories, Lackluster use of characters, Some mediocre use of actors
The Basics: The final ten episodes of Psych are almost enough to ruin anyone's love of the comedy detective series.

You know a television series has lost all of its spark when it takes multiple attempts to muster up the enthusiasm to get through the final episodes of that series. Sadly, that is where I fell with Psych. Psych had some decent seasons, became repetitive and took a big and important narrative leap in its seventh season (reviewed here!). Unfortunately, the showrunners wrote themselves into a place from which they had no idea how to proceed and the eighth season of Psych dropped like a particularly fetid dump on an otherwise good series.

With only ten episodes, the eighth and final season of Psych is a mash-up of concept episodes that largely fail to land or add up to a cohesive story that does any justice to the characters established throughout the prior seven seasons. Instead, the show's executive producers seemed to have no idea how to keep the bulk of the characters engaged and part of the ongoing narrative and they instead jettison most of the familiar characters, focus intensely on Shawn and Gus and hope viewers aren't actually watching the opening credits to notice how most of the cast is not in the episode.

With the Santa Barbara Police Department in the hands of Interim Director Trout, Shawn and Gus find themselves nearing bankruptcy from lack of use. The pair heads to the UK for PotterCon where they become embroiled in an INTERPOL investigation that puts them once more in a scheme from Desperaux. Returning home, Shawn tries his hand at becoming a motivational speaker. The show then remakes a first season episode with some new twists, before Woody is taken hostage.

After Gus investigates a murder of a man whose life is very similar to his own (meeting his ultimate romantic interest of the series in the process), the guys help Lassiter solve a murder that will allow him to get appointed Chief Of Police. Lassiter takes his new position as Chief seriously, while at the same time becoming a father, and is forced to rely on Shawn and Gus to solve the murder of a food truck owner. After Shawn participates in a police consultant convention, Gus has nightmares that lead him to seek the counsel of a sleep therapist. The series climaxes with Shawn deciding to pursue Juliet to San Fransisco . . . even if it means leaving Gus behind.

The final season of Psych is tight on Shawn, Gus, Lassiter and Woody. Woody, the coroner, gets more airtime than credited cast members who play Henry, Juliet and Vick! Kurt Fuller is hilarious, when possible, as Woody, but even he is unable to save the bulk of the episodes. The reason for that is that the tenth season relies almost exclusively on gimmick episodes: freestanding concept episodes that have a case that exists largely in an alternate reality. So, for example, "1967: A Psych Odyssey" recasts most of the characters to tell a story of a cold case that Lassiter needs Shawn to crack in order to get his promotion. "Remake A.K.A. Cloudy . . . With A Chance Of Improvement" is a lampoon of remakes of well-established pop culture classic films, but it does not actually fit into the Psych timeline. The series wastes the penultimate episode with a confusing dream-riddled episode that never firmly establishes a sense of reality to justify its end.

Because the season is so plot-focused with gimmick episodes, there is no real character development until the series finale. The episodes do not add up to character growth for any of the main characters: they are reshuffled and moved around, but until "The Break-Up," none of them really develop. The first half of the season is preoccupied with getting rid of Interim Chief Trout, but the there is no real catharsis to all of the efforts the guys go through to get rid of Trout. Vick returns for a blink before leaving, taking Juliet with her and the few scenes that feature Corbin Bernsen feel like Contractually Obligated Use Of Actor, as opposed to any reflection of the performer's talent or organic use of the character.

The performing in the final season of Psych oscillates between familiar and goofy. Episodes like "1967: A Psych Odyssey" hardly make good use of the acting talents of the primary performers while putting them in entirely different roles. None of the acting moments in the final season evoke strong emotional reactions in the viewers.

In fact, the final season of Psych is a particularly laughless season. While I loathed "A Nightmare On State Street," it was the source of the season's only memorable moment of humor. When Gus is in his mother's house in a dream, he calls out for his father and there is a picture of Martin Sheen (probably as President Bartlet) on the mantle!

Ultimately, the last season of Psych feels poorly tacked on, like there were contracts that needed paying and the USA Network decided not to take a total loss by paying them out without producing something. For the history of the series, it might have been better if the producers had ended on a very different note.

For other shows from the 2013 – 2014 television season, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Modern Family - Season 5
The Big Bang Theory - Season 7
Game Of Thrones - Season 4
New Girl - Season 3
The Walking Dead - Season 4
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 1
The Newsroom - Season 2
Breaking Bad - Season 5
The Clone Wars - Season 6
Orange Is The New Black - Season 2
Parenthood - Season 5


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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