Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dear Netflix, I Love You. PSYCH!!!

  I love the internet. I guess I should say specifically which part of the "series of tubes" I'm talking about, but I think I just love all the possibilities that the internet provides us. When I was a wee-bit Rican back in the Island I used to think MSN Messenger and MSN Chat Rooms were the best thing ever. Then I came upon multimedia heavy sites like and the such. It wasn't until much later that my love for the internet blossomed again with MySpace and YouTube... the idea of user content and pages at my fingertips was a great rush, but then Facebook came and united all the formulas in one simple (yet complicated) package. A couple of years ago I heard of a service for movies named Netflix. Get some discs in the mail, watch 'em, send them back, get some more, all for a small monthly fee. This was Heaven for a movie fanatic like me, so how do you improve that formula? Two words: streamed content. At first it was only via their website (makes sense) on your PC but they have expanded to PS3/Xbox 360/Wii and a plethora of other devices to get their service out.

Making going to the movies an even bigger waste of money...

  So Netflix is fun and all, but why my undying love for it? Well, I live in a cold climate at the moment, and going outside for a night at the movie theater or the nearest Blockbuster is quite an adventure. So instead I like the idea of being able to turn my 42" Plasma HDTV and stream whatever movie I haven't seen. Hence the Shutter Island review not so long ago. But along with movies I get some bonus content, namely, TV Series. These range from old black and white series to current "out on dvd" seasons, most in glorious High Def. This means I don't really need Cable TV, I have TV on Demand via this great piece of software. And with all the titles Netflix offers, I doubt I'll be running out soon. That being said, I found a comedy gem of a TV show that deserves a special mention and a small review. After eating up the first season in probably 3 nights (I have a job and a life mind you) and currently about to end the third, I figured I had to share my new addiction. Today, SHR is reviewing Psych: Season One.

Best. TV duo. Ever.
  Psych follows the adventures of one Shawn Spencer (played to a ridiculous level of acceptable campiness by one James "Roday" Rodriguez) and Burton "Gus" Guster (played to "straight man" perfection by Dulé Hill), a pair of  freelance private detectives that on more than one occasion work directly under the Santa Barbara Police Department alongside Chief Karen Vick (Kirsten Nelson) and her main detective duo consisting of Carlton "Lassie" Lassiter (played to "annoying by the book man" perfection until Season 3 or so by Timothy Omudson) and Juliet "Jules" O'Hara (played by Roday's current real life squeeze, and Alicia Silverstone without a jacked up mouth lookalike, Maggie Lawson). Add Shawn's dad, and retired cop, Henry Spencer (played somehow in both flashbacks and current timeline by "Mr. Roger Dorn" himself Corbin Bersen) and the occasional guest star and you have the cast rounded up.

It's actually worse than what it looks like...

  The series premise is that of hyper observant Shawn Spencer, who we see in multiple 1980's (and some hilarious 1990's) flashbacks develop and train his heightened sense of observation along with his, then cop, father. Usually the flashback hints at the nature of the episode (poker flashback = poker episode, etc) but more on that later. During a night of some passionate courting --Mr. Spencer is a ladies man, and the series will remind you of this whether you like it or not; Roday produces so expect a bit of ego stroking-- our super observant soon-to-be sleuth solves a crime by watching the prime suspect fiddle on his television during the evening news. He brings this to the attention of the SBPD and soon he's found himself on the other side of the law as a prime suspect. In order to cover his super observant skills, he pretends to be a psychic to fool Chief Vick into believing him. Detective "Lassie" is not amused by Shawn's shenanigans and is constantly his foil throughout the first season due to his cynical (and correct) nature. But Shawn can't work alone... enter Gus.

And he's single, ladies.

  Most likely the reason the show is so popular, nothing against the cast, but this man is the show stealer right here. Gus is essentially all that Shawn is not (and that's somewhat of a good thing) but he provides both the intellectual background for their newly formed Psych detective agency and a barrage of laughs due to his many quirks (think of a hyped up version of Monk but with less phobias) and his strange abilities. While Shawn has a "psychic" gift, Gus has a legitimate "super smell," they're like super heroes but with lame powers that get the job done, and get it done well. Most episodes begin with the aforementioned flashbacks and cap with a "Scooby Doo" type ending where Shawn goes through a villain's plan (with some assists by Gus or even his father) and closes a case. And that's the biggest gripe I have about season one.

The pineapples are actually a running gag... that are funny for some odd reason.

  See, Season One of Psych, while hilarious, is very "villain of the week" in regards to it's format. Shawn and Gus get a case, Shawn and Gus do many funny things, Shawn and Gus solve a case. Episode to episode. There's no story arcs in Season One, which means continuity is also kind of flaky since there's no real rhyme or reason to every individual episode. It's like a sitcom almost, but funny... and with no damn laugh track. Granted, the show does get out of it's way to establish continuity in later episodes (Gus mentions at least 3 past cases) and in later seasons there's more meat to the plot in between cases but no real arc as of yet; I'm only about to end Season 3 so don't pollute my inbox saying I'm wrong, I'm just going with what I've seen so far. While later seasons do cover stuff like "How is Gus covering his pharmaceutical job AND the Psych agency?" and "What is the deal with Shawn's mom?" it never seems like anything that happens in the show will break the dynamics already established. Some things here and there have changed, but nothing that would've already happened in another show with five seasons under it's belt. Nothing wrong with that, I just wish my time with Psych would mean more is all. The characters could be so much more if the writing time invested in developing them more with their surroundings. I do appreciate the guest stars however, seeing some of these actors that have disappeared from newer films in my Psych is refreshing. All in all a great dramedy (there's some real good moments in later seasons) that is worth the watch. Plus, there is nothing funnier than watching two grown men squeal like 13 year old girls...

  A solid show with a great premise, funny cast and a solid writing crew that keeps it funny and fresh; the episode titles alone usually get a chuckle out of me. Let's get some story arcs  in here and this show could be even better than it currently is; I'm sure there's an arc in the current season from what I'm reading, but I'm just sayin'. The theme song is atrocious but I'll be damned if it isn't catchy (love the seasons changing the video to match up their newer cases). And I know this is unrelated to Season One, but can we get more of Shawn's sister from Season 3? I nearly died laughing when she came into the picture of the Shawn/Gus dynamics. 

Shawn Spencer is a lucky feller.


Post Review Note: While story arcs are still not really "there" the sense of continuity in Seasons 3-4 is much better than Season One. After I'm done with the entire series I'll give a more complete review with these elements in mind.

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