The Guardian, 26 August 2012

Detectives Blog

Let's clear one thing up, Shawn Spencer is not psychic. Rather, he is preternaturally observant, a combination of natural skill and a childhood spent with a policeman father who was training him for a lifetime of seeing what the rest of us miss. Even his Easter eggs were buried five feet underground, beneath a tarpaulin and broken glass.

So the psychic shtick is an act: Shawn is incapable of following orders, so he can't work for the Santa Barbara police force, or indeed for anyone else. Instead, he pretends to be psychic, so the police chief will hire him and his friend Gus on their own terms, to help solve the trickiest crimes. Only their success rate keeps this undeniably ludicrous proposition alive.

Psych is a thoroughly silly show, which is presumably why no TV exec noticed that the premise is essentially the same as that of The Mentalist, which Psych pre-dates by more than 2 years. There's plenty of room in my life for both shows, but it must have been a little vexing for the creators of Psych to see The Mentalist become quite so successful. Vexing enough for them to reference the fact in the show, certainly (Expedition to British Columbia, 4,1).

Shawn is a man who requires an audience at all times. When he isn't mid-riff with Gus, he's performing to Lassiter, the police detective who tolerates him at best, or to Juliet, Lassiter’s partner, on whom Shawn has an ongoing crush. They both at least partly believe in his psychic skills, so only Gus and Shawn's dad, Henry (Corbin Bernsen), know the truth: that he's faking all the way. Each episode begins with a brief scene from Shawn’s childhood, allowing Corbin Bernsen to wear a truly awful wig, and us to see how Shawn acquired the skills which allow him to fake his psychic powers so successfully as an adult.

The show wears its silliness, and its pop-culture fandom, on its sleeve. The episode titles reference everything from horror classics to Morrissey. How can you not like a show with episodes titled Meat is Murder, but Murder is Also Murder, and The Devil’s in the Details... And in the Upstairs Bedroom. And they're not above a good cheap pun, either: 'Poker? I Barely Know Her'.

James Roday and Dule Hill are clearly having a tremendous time as Shawn and Gus, and the writers aren't far behind - 'I thought you were so cool,' Shawn says to an international jewel thief. 'I’m thinking, this guy is Thomas Crown. You're barely Remington Steel.' They never fail to commit to a theme or a joke, even reworking the insanely catchy theme tune to a Christmas, Bollywood, or Hispanic soap opera version as the episodes demand.

The guest star quotient is high (Cybill Shepherd as Shawn’s mum, Ally Sheedy, Mena Suvari, and of course, Cary Elwes in full Dread Pirate Roberts-mode as the jewel thief).

And above all, the murders themselves are gratifyingly inventive - extra points for 65 Million Years Off (2,2), in which the prime suspect is a dinosaur.

Iconic? The comedy-detective genre is one which doesn't ever do the business that straight detective shows do, which is a pity. But any show which lets you see Charlie from The West Wing reveal his considerable tap-dancing chops is good for me (Feet Don't Kill Me Now, 5,2).

Duffers? Well, I can't deny it's cheesy. But who doesn't love cheese? And of course, cheese goes with the pineapple which is mentioned, alluded to, or shown in almost every episode. Fact.