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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Psych - The Complete Second Season
Psych - The Complete Second Season
Universal // Unrated // July 8, 2008
List Price: $59.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Kauffman | posted July 10, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
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The Movie:
As will probably come as no surprise to those of you who have read more than a couple of my reviews here at DVD Talk, I was kind of a smart-aleck growing up. I would be a multimillionaire by this point if I had a nickel for every time someone (usually one of my sisters, both seemingly immune to my spontaneous flights of sarcastic genius) shouted, "Do you think you're being clever? Well, you're not." Of course I knew better--I knew full well not only was I being clever, I was among the cleverest people ever, and public opinion be damned. Somewhat ironic, then, that I was the one shouting at Psych's second season, similarly dismayed that this show, undeniably smart and at times hilarious, just spent one too many times either winking at the audience or, even worse, at itself. It's absolutely great when a series doesn't take itself too seriously, and even greater when the cast is obviously enjoying their interpersonal repartee, but it gets a bit wearing when it's thrust in your face with a sort of "aren't we the cleverest ever?" ethos that ultimately defeats its purpose. Psych is light and breezy, and always competent--I just wish it were a little more inspired and a little less "hey, look at me!"

The show, which might be summed up as a sort of Anti-Medium, concerns Shawn Spencer (James Roday), a fake psychic who has found himself employed as a special consultant to the Santa Barbara Police Department, where he faces the obstacles of his nemesis, Detective Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) and the wiles of Lassiter's junior detective, Juliet ("Jules") O'Hara (Maggie Lawson). Spencer is always accompanied by his best friend since childhood, Gus (Dule Hill), and the bulk of each episode revolves around the sparring partnership the two have developed over a lifetime together (in fact, each episode routinely starts off with a segment showing them as kids which eventually ties in thematically with the rest of the "present day" episode). Corbin Bernsen puts in regular appearances as Shawn's father, a retired policeman himself who once thought his son would follow in his own footsteps, and who sought to train him in the arts of observation and analysis.

While the premise of the show is sound, and the writing often very, very funny, there's simply no real point to the fake psychic angle for one very good reason: Shawn has developed something akin to a "Spidey-sense", a mix of intuition and fine observational skills, that makes it a completely moot point as to whether he's psychic or not. So while there may be some passing comedic fodder when, for example, he attempts to crack a combination lock code, the underlying logic is somewhat skewed since, psychic or not, you know he's going to be able to figure it out one way or the other (in this case he has the aid of Gus, whose expertise is not ever clearly explained). While Roday plays the sometimes completely loony dialogue and mannered "channeling" behavior of Shawn for all it's worth, it really boils down to a dog and pony show, which is fine, if ultimately pointless.

The other drawback to the series is the shallowness of its mystery elements. This show literally telegraphs its clues (when Shawn sees something that will become important, either quickly or later, it magically "lights up"), meaning anyone with a rudimentary sense of how these television conundrums are written will have a pretty good idea of the denouement by the second commercial. Since the show is ultimately about the interplay of the characters, and not necessarily the tangential plots, this isn't as much of a hang up as you might expect it to be, but don't go into this show expecting a puzzle that will delight and confound.

Now I know after all of the above, you may be hard-pressed to believe I'm actually going to recommend Psych, but that comes with the territory of being a smart-aleck--defying expectations. The saving grace of this show is its deadpan humor, frequently in throwaway lines that zoom by at the speed of sound. If the humor is sometimes too cute by half (something this show shares with Scrubs, another frequently brilliantly written show that devolves into a wink-fest too often for its own good), some of the lines are so laugh out loud hilarious that they make the entire episode worth watching.

Some of these moments come courtesy of the guest stars, as when Tim Curry, playing a Simon Cowell-ish judge for a talent show on the second season premiere (one of the most broadly written of the season), gets into a patently silly argument with Bernsen when Curry wears Bernsen's terry cloth robe while "going commando." A lot of the moments however are due to the flying cultural references that dot the conversations of Shawn and Gus, like passing comments about the worth of various 1980s pop hits, or off-the-cuff comments, as when Shawn, who has landed a part in a local Spanish-language telenovela, laments that his knowledge of Spanish came from the Love Boat episode featuring Charo.

The second season does see some nice guest turns, including Phylicia Rashad and Ernie Hudson as Gus' parents, and a very funny John Amos as Gus' Uncle. Guest director John Landis is also on board for a couple of episodes, including the above-mentioned season opener, "American Duos," which plays like a cross between two other Landis features, "The Blues Brothers" and "The Twilight Zone" (that's a joke for you irony-impaired).

Psych is, ultimately, akin to a great weekend paperback beach read: nothing too demanding, frequently entertaining, but just as frequently forgotten as soon as it's over. Roday and Hill make a charming and ebullient team, and the supporting cast is uniformly excellent. If the writers spent a little less time winking and a little more time crafting some better crimes that needed to be solved, Psych might escape its cloying cuteness factor and really rise to a level of engagement that few current series do.

The DVD

Video:
Psych is presented in a very clear enhanced 1.78:1 ratio, with excellent color and saturation. In fact, the candy- and pastel-colored palette of this show is one of the highlights of the entire series.

Sound:
The DD 5.1 soundtrack is probably a bit of overkill for a series that doesn't rely on whiz-bang effects for its sonic pleasures. That said, this series pays a lot of attention to separation, with excellent fidelity every step of the way.

Extras:
This 4 DVD set is chock-full of extras, including audio commentaries on almost every episode usually featuring Roday, Hill, creator Steve Franks and various other production crew. Dotting various discs are deleted scenes (sometimes actually expanded scenes from those shown in the broadcast version), gag reels, the animated "Adventures of Li'l Shawn and Gus" USA network promos, "Where's the Pineapple?," brief snippets chronicling one of many running gags in the show, "The Name Game," two more brief segments detailing Hill saying "Shawn" (yep, it's pointless), and another one showing Roday coming up with fake names for Hill (a bit more entertaining). Finally there's "Psych-Outs," featuring outtakes from various episodes (psych-outs, outtakes, clever, eh? CLEVER!!).

Final Thoughts:
Hey, Psych, do you think you're being clever? Well, do you? OK, you are, at least some of the time. Tone it down a notch and concentrate on the mystery element and you'll be twice as enjoyable. Recommended.

____________________________________________
"G-d made stars galore" & "Hey, what kind of a crappy fortune is this?" ZMK, modern prophet

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