TV Review: ‘Psych’ Continues to Thrive on Star Chemistry

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CHICAGOUSA has undeniably become the network of summer TV entertainment and they finish off their slate of debuting and returning shows with the season premiere of the fan-favorite “Psych.” Considering it’s one of the networks more reliable hits, it doesn’t take a mind reader to predict that not much has changed in the world of Shawn and Gus. Television Rating: 3.0/5.0
Television Rating: 3.0/5.0

The USA Network used to be content with one or two summer hits but they’re clearly moving in the direction where they’ll have a whole week of programming before long. With “Burn Notice,” “Royal Pains,” “White Collar,” and “Covert Affairs” all airing new episodes in July, the return of “Psych” almost seems like a statement from the network — forget one night a week; we want you to tune in EVERY night.

Photo credit: Alan Zenuk/USA

If you’re somehow completely unfamiliar with “Psych,” it follows a similar structure to all USA shows in that it’s a mystery-of-the-week show driven by its unique characters. The lead is a character not unlike Simon Baker’s on “The Mentalist” in that he has such strong powers of deduction that people think he’s psychic. He has a loyal friend who gets dragged along on his crime-solving adventures.

To be honest, I’m not a loyal, week-to-week “Psych” viewer. In my profession, I’ve seen over a dozen episodes, but it’s never been appointment television for me. It’s always seemed a bit too light on its feet, as if the writers are winking at the audience and letting them know just how clever they think they are.

Photo credit: Alan Zenuk/USA

Having said that, the main strength of “Psych” has always been in the chemistry between stars James Roday and Dule Hill and it’s something that’s improved with each season. Supporting stars Corbin Bernsen and Timothy Omundsen are entertaining players but the show lives and dies on what you think of Roday and Hill. I still wish that their dialogue more often sounded genuine and not so overly self-aware of its cleverness, but these two stars are consistently entertaining, particularly in the scenes that require them to volley crime scene information back and forth like a brainy C.S.I. team that hasn’t lost its sense of humor.

In the season premiere, Shawn and Gus are forced to find a missing girl while dealing with the fact that Shawn’s dad now has a role in the department that might hold our boys back from doing what they do best — “I got case-blocked by my own father.” The case draws them into the world of the Chinese Triads but it’s merely a way for the writers to give our heroes subjects on which to riff back and forth like a classic TV pair. You can almost picture the writer’s meeting — “What setting haven’t we sent the boys to yet? Martial arts!”

With above average production values that are now common to USA and entertaining leads, “Psych” continues to deliver exactly what audiences expect. I can see no reason why the readers who have expressed adoration for “Psych” in the past would possibly be disappointed by the season premiere. Once again, a mystery-of-the-week merely serves as the dance floor on which beloved USA characters can do what they do best. I still think there’s a way to make the action of “Psych” sound more like the real world, but summer escapism doesn’t often trade in realism and there’s no network that does escapism better this summer than USA.

‘Psych,’ which airs on USA, stars James Roday, Dule Hill, Corbin Bernsen, Timothy Omundson, Maggie Lawson, and Kirsten Nelson. The show returns on July 14th, 2010 at 9PM CST. content director Brian Tallerico

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