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Reviewed by Jason Thompson
uffice it to say that the USA Network has become a surprising little powerhouse on basic cable when it comes to original hit TV series. Back when I was growing up, the network was mainly known for its tacky assemblage of old reruns and such other interesting fare as “Radio 1990,” “Night Flight,” Kung Fu Theater” and “Commander USA’s Groovie Movies.” The network was more of a depository for the fringe and the arcane more than it was a “legit” cable outlet. But times change, and so has the network, introducing enough new fan favorites such as “Monk,” “Burn Notice” and “Psych,” as well as securing new seasons of favorite shows previously shown on other, bigger networks (“Law and Order SVU”).
So here we are with the second season of “Psych,” one of the best comedy/mystery shows to ever hit the airwaves. For newcomers, the show revolves around fake psychic Shawn Spencer (James Roday) who has a gift for noticing the most minute details of his surroundings. This special skill was encouraged and cultivated by his father Henry (Corbin Bernsen), a retired cop. Shawn’s business partner, Burton Guster (Dule Hill, as great in this series as he was in “The West Wing”) or “Gus” as he is affectionately known, has a full-time job as a master of smells – that is, his nose is highly sensitive to various aromas. Shawn and Gus haven been friends since their childhood and through Shawn’s charm (and basic insistence), Gus got sucked into helping Shawn solve crimes for the local police department under the “Psych” business moniker.
Most of the police department believes in Shawn’s “abilities,” especially Jules (Maggie Lawson). However Detective Lassiter (played hilariously by Timothy Omundson) has his doubts, and is always out to debunk Shawn’s talents. Unfortunately for him, Shawn and Gus are always one step ahead, making Lassiter look more like a fool than a competent detective. And so, in this second season of “Psych” we have 16 mostly great episodes that work as well as they do not only because of the smart, quick-witted writing, but also because the ensemble cast is just so damn good in general.
The season starts off with one of two episodes directed by John Landis: “American Duos,” which guest stars Tim Curry and Gina Gershon. Curry plays a Simon Cowell-type role as the main judge on a talent show called “American Duos.” His life has recently been threatened and he calls upon the aid of a psychic detective to help him out. Enter Shawn and Gus, whom Curry instantly dislikes. However, due to Shawn’s uncanny knack for “sensing” otherwise unforeseen dangers, Curry is ultimately indebted to the Psych team. Unfortunately, the whole “American Idol” spoof plays a bit thin before the episode concludes, but luckily this is the only really flat part of the second season.
Otherwise, we are treated to great episodes such as “65 Million Years Off,” in which Lassiter has been solving a string of cases without the aid of Psych, much to Shawn’s dismay, until a victim shows up dead and Spencer claims the man was killed by a dinosaur. Other laugh-out-loud episodes come via the horse racing thrills of “And Down the Stretch Comes Murder;” the old folks’ home tale of mystery in “The Old and the Restless;” and the absolute hilarious “Lights, Camera…Homicidio” in which Shawn becomes the hottest new star on a Spanish soap opera after replacing a cast member who is murdered.
To break down these episodes and many of the others would take far too much space here. But the point is that “Psych” is a brilliantly written and executed comedy/mystery series. There aren’t many of those out there these days, and the twist (Shawn Spencer does not have any psychic abilities whatsoever) puts like-minded TV dramas that do feature characters with such “real” powers in their proper places. Watching Roday and Hill work so effortlessly with each other is a delight, with Hill not being just the sidekick but an equal (and sometimes even more visible) partner in the stories. For fans of great mysteries and comedies, you can simply do no wrong with the wonderful “Psych.”
Special Features: Tons of great stuff here from the expected deleted scenes and audio commentaries to gag reels and the fan favorite “Psychouts,” which are basically bloopers shown at the end of every episode, collected together here in one nice feature. There are also “Psych” podcast commentaries, as well as “The Adventures of Lil’ Shawn and Gus,” a brief animated series that debuted during the second season and played during commercial breaks. In all, this is a great package that will surely please the fans in every way possible.