A Farewell to Psych

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Last Wednesday, March 26, Psych aired its series finale, entitled “The Break-Up.” This probably does not mean a lot to a fair amount of people. The show was never a big hit. It had little to no cultural cache. It got moved around a bunch, airing in several timeslots and on multiple days of the week. People who watched the other USA Network shows were presumably aware of it. So you may be surprised to find out that Psych churned out 121 episodes over eight seasons. It had its devoted fans, as all shows do, especially in this modern Internet age, but Psych’s fans felt notably vocal, and notably passionate.

In many ways, the show was somewhat formulaic. It was made in the image that USA wanted to cultivate. It was an hour-long mystery show. People got murdered, but it was rarely disturbing, and infrequently gory. The bad guys always got caught and all that stuff. However, of all the shows in this genre, and of all the USA Network shows, Psych was the best. It was the rare hour-long show that could only be considered a comedy. It was basically an extended sitcom, but a particularly funny one.

The show started with a simple premise. Shawn Spencer (James Roday) is a goofy, wayward slacker who decides to start a fake psychic detective agency alongside his straight-laced best friend, Burton “Gus” Guster (Dule Hill). They helped the cops solve crimes using Spencer’s observational skills. Tim Omundsen played no-nonsense cop Carlton Lassiter, while Maggie Lawson played his partner, Juliet O’Hara, who eventually became the love interest for Shawn.

Early on, Psych was content to just try and tell funny stories with some degree of mystery in the middle (and they largely succeeded), but as the show went on, the creators and writers were able to indulge themselves. There are few shows in the history of television that were as interested in pop culture as Psych, or at least few more enthusiastic about it. Sure, Community loves to play with the conventions of the genre, but Psych just thought it would be awesome to do a vampires episode, or a Twin Peaks homage.

The characters referenced pop culture all the time, but in the way real people do. It was how they related and how they described things and, yes, was often good for an easy laugh. Then, there was genre riff after genre riff after genre riff. Eventually, this did tend to overshadow the stories, and the episode quality dipped as a result. The truncated final season was, in part, hindered by the fact it often felt like the folks behind the show just wanted to get in every pop culture reference they hadn’t had the chance to deliver yet. This led to a penultimate episode that was mostly a dream filled with horror movie references, which was a real disappointment. The final season also went a bit heavy on the cameos, which was something the show also loved to traffic in. (Alas, they fell an Emilio Estevez short of a full The Breakfast Club reunion.)

All that being said, and the grievances about the final season aside, “The Break-Up” was a fine way for the show to go out. It was the best episode of the season, and probably the best one in a few years. This includes the two-hour long musical extravaganza that was more fun in premise than in execution. They eschewed the genre trappings for this one, although they did slip in one cameo that shall remain unspoiled. Well, you could make a case that the series finale was a take on the tropes of series finales, but in truth it was really just a show that wanted to do what most finales for comedies want to do. Namely, end things on a high note.

So Shawn and Gus have one final case to solve, although Gus doesn’t know that, because Shawn doesn’t tell him that he is moving to San Francisco to be with Juliet. That’s another boost to this episode—the very fact Lawson was able to show up. She was mostly absent this season because she was the lead on the short-lived Back in the Game. Billy Zane is in the episode. The antics they get up to during the case are funny and fun as ever. However, they make sure to save plenty of time to let all the characters end up where they want to be. Given this is the series finale of a show with two characters who are dating, you can probably imagine where that leads, although the way it all plays out is actually fairly clever, and a fitting way for the show to end.

You can’t argue that Psych didn’t get a fair shake. It got well over 100 episodes to tell its stories and to build its audience. It was running out of steam, but it managed to get its second wind. It is a show that will likely fade away except in the minds of its devoted fans. Still, for people who ever want to watch some enjoyable characters goofing on The Shining or Clue, there will always be a show out there waiting for you. It was a fine run, Psych. Not every show gets to be Scandal.

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