Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ask Erik: Episode Fifty-Seven

For this week's Ask Erik, we're going a bit more...medial.  Media-esque?  Technolog- Televisiona- no... man, I don't know where we're going.

To Erik:  What do you think about Psych ending tonight?

I've been a long time fan of James Roday, Dulé Hill, Corbin Bernsen, Maggie Lawson, Timothy Omundson, Kirsten Nelson, Kurt Fuller, and every other actor who performed on Psych.  I've seen every episode, I've watched loyally every week, and while I haven't yet watched the final episode (or the send-off afterwards), I have them both recorded on the DVR.  It just takes a little time to get pumped up to watch a fun show end.

Was it a perfect show?  Of course not, there's no such thing as a perfect show on television since they wrongly cancelled Now And Again after one season.

But was it fun?  Most of the time, yes.

I enjoyed seeing the relationship between James Roday's Shawn Spencer and Maggie Lawson's Juliet O'Hara play out.  I liked the dysfunctional father/son dynamic between Corbin Bernsen and James Roday.  I enjoyed the strong bromance (not surprisingly, spell check hates that word) between James and Dulé Hill.

Now, before I go to deep into things I enjoyed, I suppose I should say the things that bothered me.  After all, if you have nothing critical to say towards something, then it has no way to grow and/or you're horribly biased.

I enjoyed the standard formula for years.  Shawn and Gus get brought on to consult on a crime (because as everybody knows, all television police forces are completely incompetent), there's a few 80s and 90s references made, Shawn's keen observation abilities spot things others miss (or are about to discover) and he takes credit for solving the case.

And started to get formulaic.  I don't know if it was an intentional choice or not, but to me it felt that Shawn and Gus were having more fun goofing off instead of trying to solve the case.  Shawn would just stumble along from place to place, screwing up accusations and acting completely over the top while pretending to use psychic powers until he discovered the truth and Gus...well, he drove Shawn around and failed to act as a source of common sense.

Honestly, I was prepared to quit, thinking that Psych was about to spiral down a path I wasn't going to enjoy and I preferred to remember it on a high note.  Then Corbin Bernsen's character got shot.

At this point, I figured Shawn was going to start taking his job extremely seriously.  He might decide that maybe he should start studying to become an actual detective (if I remember correctly, he did take the exam once to become a policeman and did superbly at it, just chose not to do it because of his father issues).  It would provide a new and interesting context for Shawn to use his powers with a new group of people who assume he's somehow faking (since Carlton Lassiter's character apparently gave up on pursuing that idea and everybody just accepted it as "oh, right, he's psychic").  We'd see him try to become a private detective and start doing things like breaking down cold cases, taking more cases off the street, and other new and exciting ideas.

...instead, we got one episode about Shawn seeking revenge for his father's shooting, and then things went back to normal for the most part, with Shawn disrespecting his (still healing) father, goofing off, and stumbling his way through cases.

But it wasn't as over the top.  And as time went on, it felt that it was starting to come around to its roots, having Shawn focus a bit more on solving crimes as he started to get serious about Juliet O'Hara.  Gus...well, looking back through all the seasons, I think the only major step Gus wound up taking was quitting his pharmaceutical job.  Buzz McNab had more character growth than that in just a couple of seasons.

It still bothered me that Shawn didn't seem to take anything seriously, things that any other person would think was a big deal (being called to consult with Scotland Yard, being saved from being murdered by a psychopath who once tried to blow up his mother, being shot once himself), but in the last season he really seemed to be more down to earth (while not totally grounded, of course).

This is starting to sound that I hated the show, which couldn't be further from the truth.

Most times I watch a police procedural, I'm spending the entire episode pondering "whodunnit."  I'm usually able to narrow down the suspects pretty quickly based on their importance to the story ("why else would they introduce that character for three seconds if they weren't going to bring them back later?") and can usually solve it before the show reveals the big twist.

With Psych, I never tried to solve it before Shawn did.  I simply sat back and enjoyed the episodes right through nostalgic references and random segues.  Sure, it was over the top when they got involved in stage musicals, Bollywood, finding a dinosaur skeleton, appearing on a telenovela, and so on, but it was still fun.

And it's something a lot of shows seem to forget to have.

Psych survived, I feel, on the strength of its cast and their chemistry with each other.  Whether it was guest stars (too many to list), pop culture references, or riffs on classic horror movies, you wanted to peek in to see what they were having fun with even if the series was becoming too unbelievable.

It's remarkable the show remained on the air as long as it did, but I'm glad it did.  I also appreciate how the series seemed to really find its footing again in the last two seasons, able to end on such a high note.

No comments: