TV Review: USA’s Reliable, Entertaining ‘Psych’ Returns For Mid-Season Premiere

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CHICAGO – “Psych” returns tonight, November 10th, 2010 for the mid-season premiere of one of basic cable’s most likable programs. The show has legions of fans but has never quite broken out like pop culture smashes “Monk,” “The Closer,” or “Mad Men.” It’s a reliably-enjoyable mystery-comedy that thrives on the comic timing and perfect chemistry of its talented leads. TV Rating: 3.5/5.0
TV Rating: 3.5/5.0

Debuting in 2006, “Psych” always kind of felt like the kid brother to “Monk,” another quirky mystery-comedy with an eccentric genius crime-solver that originally served as the show’s lead-in. Five seasons in (the first half of this season aired in the summer), the show continues to be a solid performer for the network that has already renewed it for round six. With big brother “Monk” retired, it’s time for “Psych” to stand on its own and it has maintained its position as one of basic cable’s more likable (if occasionally frustrating) mystery series.

Photo credit: USA

James Roday stars as Shawn, a man with enough intuition and powers of observation that he can pass as a fake psychic. He partners with the more level-headed Gus (Dule Hill) and the two solve crimes and assist the Santa Barbara Police Department. Corbin Bernsen stars as Shawn’s father, Timothy Omundson as a beleaguered detective, Maggie Lawson as a love-interest detective, and Kirsten Nelson as the Chief. Cary Elwes guests on the mid-season premiere as the boys’ nemesis Despereaux.

Photo credit: USA

The tables are turned in the mid-season premiere when Despereaux, after using the boys to escape extradition to the United States, is framed for the murder of the Crown Attorney. He knows that the boys will not only know he’s innocent but be able to prove it. Can they control the felon while keeping him secret from the police long enough to prove his innocence?

Cary Elwes is having cheesy fun but his weird performance highlights what I still consider the main weakness of the show — everything outside of Shawn and Gus. As Hill and Roday have more comfortably-settled into this character’s shoes year-after-year, it’s become more apparent that they’re often better than the material they have been given. It feels like when they’re just allowed to riff and possibly even improvise off each other that the show comes alive but when it gets back to the plot — either the boring mystery or a truly lackluster romance between Shawn and Juliet — it starts to sag. Even Bernsen and Omundson are starting to feel a little stale. It’s when Hill and Roday are given the freedom to do what they do best that people fall in love with the show.

On a show like “Psych,” chemistry is nearly everything. Viewers will forgive plot holes, continuity errors, cheesy dialogue and a number of other common sins of the basic cable mystery series if they like the characters. People don’t care as much about the actual plot as they do spending time with their friends Gus and Shawn. Could the writing be better? Absolutely. But Hill and Roday are good enough that it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t take a psychic to know that they’re going to keep this show popular for USA until they grow tired of doing it.

The ‘Psych’ mid-season premiere airs on USA Network on Wednesday, November 10th, 2010 at 9pm CST. It stars James Roday, Dule Hill, Corbin Bernsen, Timothy Omundson, Maggie Lawson, and Cary Elwes. content director Brian Tallerico

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