Appellate Judge James A. Stewart can't remember last night, but it was probably a TV-on-DVD marathon, as usual.
Our review of Psych: The Eighth and Final Season, published April 26th, 2014, is also available.
"My God, I used to be a detective. Now, I'm a babysitter."—Juliet O'Hara
At one point in a commentary, as Gus is playing with a fish on a plate, its cold eye staring back at him, it's noted that the bits of business on Psych can draw attention away from things like plot and dialogue. In addition to fish, you might remember Shawn's oratory as he accuses a ballplayer of murder (inaccurately), a drugged Gus's romantic lines, or Lassie's descent into madness in a possibly haunted condo after watching Psych: The Complete Sixth Season. All those distractions mean that, even if you've seen all these episodes on television, you probably won't remember whodunit in most of them. Or maybe you will. Another commentary points out that somewhere there were Psych fans who noticed a big plot hole in "This Episode Sucks."
Now for another season with psychic detective Shawn Spencer, his perpetually irritated best friend and crime-solving partner, Burton Guster (Gus), his perpetually irritated lady love, Juliet O'Hara, his perpetually irritated verbal sparring partner, Carlton Lassiter (Lassie), his perpetually irritated father, Henry Spencer, and his perpetually irritated boss, Chief Karen Vick.
Facts of the Case
Season Six features sixteen episodes on four discs:
• "Last Night Gus"—Gus (Dule Hill, The West Wing) can't remember what he did last night to attract a beautiful woman. Lassie's amnesia is slightly more troubling, since dead bodies and his discharged gun are involved. Shawn, Henry, and coroner Woody (Kurt Fuller, Midnight in Paris) won't be much help, since they've gone blank, too.
• "This Episode Sucks"—Lassie would rather believe Shawn and Gus when they suspect a vampire is responsible for a murder than doubt his newfound girlfriend, Marlowe (Kristy Swanson, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
• "The Amazing Psych-Man & Tap Man, Issue #2"—Who was that masked man who rounded up the bad guys while Shawn and Gus were stumbling and out of breath? The Mantis, his note says. Who is the Mantis? Now, there's a mystery for the Catch and Tap-Man (actually Shawn and Gus).
• "Shawn Interrupted"—When the accused is sent to a mental hospital instead of prison, Lassie wants help from "the only one of us who could pass for someone in need of institutionalization." That's Shawn, of course. Brad Dourif (Halloween) and Molly Ringwald (The Breakfast Club) guest.
• "In for a Penny"—Juliet (Maggie Lawson, Crumbs), flashing back to an unhappy childhood birthday with her dad absent, tells Shawn she doesn't want Dad (William Shatner, Star Trek: The Original Series) on the guest list for her thirtieth birthday bash. Naturally, Shawn decides to invite him anyway.
• "The Tao of Gus"—A woman reporting a murder is crazy about Gus, but Juliet and Lassie think she's just crazy. After someone mistakes Juliet for the witness and starts shooting, the path leads to a religious cult. Diedrich Bader (The Drew Carey Show) guests.
• "Indiana Shawn and the Temple of Kinda Crappy, Rusty Old Dagger (Extended Version)"—Shawn and Gus rescue a lady (Madchen Amick, Twin Peaks) in distress, but let the art treasures they're guarding get away. Despereaux (Cary Elwes, The Princess Bride) lends a hand in retrieving them, but he'll need a eulogy from Shawn before it's done.
• "Heeeeere's Lassie (Extended Version)"—In his new condo, Lassie starts hearing voices and noticing that his furniture isn't where he left it. Could he be driven to suicide, like the last occupant? No, but he tries something more desperate: hiring Shawn and Gus to investigate. Louis Gossett Jr. (Iron Eagle) guests and William Shatner turns up again for a cameo.
• "Shawn and the Real Girl"—Shawn faces reality, or at least reality TV, when he and Gus go undercover as dating show contestants. Facing Juliet may be harder. Greg Grunberg, Wayne Brady, and The Miz guest.
• "Autopsy Turvy"—Woody and an old flame (Glynne Headly, Monk) renew their relationship over a botched autopsy. Meanwhile, a bookstore owner (French Stewart, 3rd Rock from the Sun) helps Shawn and Gus retrace the last steps of "a lonely individual."
• "True Grits"—Shawn and Gus help an innocent man (Anthony Anderson, Law and Order) just released from prison find the real culprit. Lassie's filled with joy, since it could cause conflict between Shawn and Juliet, who put the man away.
• "Santabarbaratown"—Henry (Corbin Bernsen, Major League) returns to detective duty after the unearthing of a woman who disappeared twenty years earlier. Meanwhile, Shawn's romance with Juliet is finally going smoothly, but he's about to have another problem.
Somewhere in this section, I'm going to have to mention the series' big spoiler, so if you're doing something other than just checking to see if one of your favorite episodes is in this set, be forewarned.
An episode of Psych kind of sneaks up on you. While you're watching, you're laughing, but afterward, you realize there was a plot there—often an interesting one. Watching these the second time around, I noticed that those plots hold up pretty well most of the time.
I also noticed that—while, say, Watson has to explain his detecting partner's thoughts to the other characters—Gus often has to explain Shawn's thoughts back to Shawn. That has to be a TV mystery first. However, it takes someone who could go into a Guinness-level candy craving, try to seduce a mental patient, and join Shawn in dressing vampirically to investigate a possible bloodsucker attack to comprehend Shawn Spencer.
To give Shawn a sense of rootedness, it takes Juliet O'Hara. Shawn hasn't been in relationships or jobs for very long before his now six-year stint as a psychic detective consulting with the Santa Barbara Police Department (where only one detective, Carlton Lassiter, has a clue that Shawn gets his skills from policeman father, Henry). This season, he and Juliet are a couple, and he's thinking of proposing (although he keeps putting that engagement ring in all the wrong places). Shawn is totally unaware when dealing with Juliet's squabbles with her father and thinks there should be a pony at her thirtieth birthday party, but he's at least trying. Juliet somehow defends Shawn with a hint of admiration in her voice.
Shawn still has some adjusting to do: he finds he can't deliver a eulogy in "Indiana Shawn," he's generally unaware when things are getting dangerous, and he's still bickering with his father, Henry (who's well-meaning but not perfect; his life advice for his son included how to beat a lie detector test). All of these things seem to be foreshadowing the Season Six cliffhanger, which found Henry lying wounded on a beach after a shooting. It looked grim the first time I saw it earlier in 2012, but I noticed this time that there's some deft editing and shot set-up here, so it's up in the air. Hopefully, that means Henry lands on his feet.
As for the supporting cast, the ongoing thread of Lassie's relationship with Marlowe gives Timothy Omundsen some good moments, Corbin Bernsen's Henry gets small bits—such as romancing a younger woman or arguing with Shawn at a ballgame before returning to the beat in "Santabarbaratown"—and Kurt Fuller's Woody isn't quite all there to best effect in "Last Night Gus" and "Autopsy Turvy." Kristen Nelson's Chief Karen Vick usually just gets to be perpetually irritated.
As always, the best Psych episodes are the ones that are funny strange, in addition to being funny ha-ha: "Last Night Gus," "This Episode Sucks," "Psych-Man & Tap Man," "Heeeeere's Lassie," and "Autopsy Turvy." Oddly, having Shawn finally getting serious with Juliet after all these years seems to free up writers' energy for an overall season that's stronger than usual, wrapping up well with "True Grits" and "Santabarbaratown."
Eight of the episodes have commentaries. You might be confused because there are a lot of voices, many of whom give false names, a la Shawn's introductions of Gus. They also refer to guest actors with names like "Baby Thor" or "Young Peter Cushing." Most of the cast and quite a few production people are involved at some point or another. There are a lot of jokes and a lot of actual tidbits about the stories. Many of them involve the fact that USA still has strict standards, mostly surrounding onscreen blood. Others note the show's low budget (they're not likely to pony up for ponies). Each episode has a video commentary with the writers and a picture of Shawn and Gus; the one for "Let's Doo-Wop it Again" offers an entertaining parody of the episode.
Otherwise, the best extra is "Underground with Psych," which shows the set for the hidden chamber in "Indiana Shawn." Note how small and claustrophobic the chamber, which looks spacious in the episode, is with a crew in it. There are quite a few extended scenes, including a battle of accents with Malcolm McDowell and extended songs from Blackapella. Psych-Outs and montages of running gags round out the package.
It's a recent production, so you won't have any problems with the picture and sound quality.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I seem to remember more "Psych-Outs" and bloopers when I saw these on TV, and I'm used to seeing them attached to the episodes. Even if you're a credits buff, you're likely to miss the stuff that usually runs on top of them on Psych. More, more, more would be a good mantra when dealing with "Psych-Outs" on DVD releases.
Most of the time, Psych is family friendly, but there are a few wild gags. It's darned funny when Shawn tells Gus that he and Juliet have been studying "congress of the rhino" from the Kama-Sutra, but you don't want to explain this one to little ones.
Psych plots frequently rely on one of the most enduring cliches of the TV whodunit. Several times this season, you'll see Shawn and Gus heading off to confront their prime suspect, only to find that the suspect is actually the next victim. Please, in Season Seven, let more of the people Shawn wrongly suspects live.
Also, you might wonder about things like the way Lassie and Juliet head into a potential standoff like nothing happened right after being knocked around in a car crash.
Because of the way these mysteries are hidden behind gags, Psych takes a little while to grow on you, which it probably has already if you're a mystery fan with a strange sense of humor. Of course, that odd sneakiness about Psych makes it a reasonably good power-watching choice, in case you're catching up or haven't watched Psych before. The character changes in Season Six don't overwhelm the stories, so it's probably got some of your favorite episodes if you're a fan.
As for the question of whether Shawn is becoming more mature—something everyone involved with Psych would probably deny—I think he is, but he'll always be strange.
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