From 2006 to 2014, the cult hit USA Network series Psych enthralled viewers everywhere with its zany adventures of Shawn Spencer, a fake psychic consultant to the Santa Barbara Police Department, and Burton Guster, his faithful and often perplexed partner in crime and crime solving. It's a pretty bizarre premise to base a show around, and it shouldn't have worked, at all. But that it did is just truly a testament to its writers and the series' perfect cast.
Led by performances from James Roday and Dule Hill that somehow always manage to be wonderfully over the top and yet never overdone, Psych is the buddy comedy genre at its finest. But there are other elements to the series, too: a will they, won't they relationship between Shawn and SBPD Detective Juliet O'Hara; a fractious relationship between Shawn, Gus, and wary SBPD Detective Carlton Lassiter; the broken family dynamic between Shawn and his retired police officer father Henry; and so many winning supporting characters, like the peculiar Mary Lightly and the absolutely ridiculous coroner Woody Strode.
For 119 episodes, and a musical feature film, and a full feature film, and with another feature film on the way, Psych has always kept its legions of devoted Psych-os entertained. But if we have to be honest, there are some cases and some episodes that just don't hold up to the rest of the stellar series. Let's take a look at the best and worst the series has to offer.
10 Best: Mr. Yin Presents
Psych is often at its best during its tribute episodes. Whether paying tribute to beloved films or television series, the long-running dramedy crime procedural always has a keen eye for detail and for both celebrating and parodying what it's commenting on. But one of Psych's best tribute episodes by far involves no such form of parody, but rather, a harrowing replication of Alfred Hitchcock's most memorable murder mysteries.
"Mr. Yin Presents," the fourth season finale, finds Shawn and Gus going head to head with their nemesis, Ally Sheedy's crazed serial killer Mr. Yang, as well as her partner in crime, Mr. Yin. Along the way, they're both led to solve various riddles which keep following the theme of Hitchcock's classic films, including Vertigo and Scream. The episode features some of the series' finest heavy drama acting, as well as some truly touching moments that are guaranteed to bring the tears.
9 Worst: Lassie Jerky
A tribute episode that the series experimented with in its seventh season that decidedly did not work is the episode "Lassie Jerky." Stylized as a parody of found footage films like The Blair Witch Project, "Lassie Jerky" follows Shawn, Gus, and their SBPD colleagues as they join along with a group of college kids to investigate the possible existence of Bigfoot in the woods of Santa Barbara. We really wish we were kidding.
Psych never shies away from zany, over the top ideas, but this one was just a step too far. And that, of course, is all before accounting for what really unfolds - the reveal of a hermit living secluded in the woods, as well as a foreign crime syndicate committing murders and trying to keep their buried bodies a secret - which, of course, leads them to try to kill the college students and the Psych gang, too. It's a confusing mess, only made worse by the interspersed found footage approach.
8 Best: Dual Spires
One of the smartest, pitch-perfect parodies that Psych ever executed was its send-up of the beloved David Lynch-Mark Frost cult series Twin Peaks. In the season five episode "Dual Spires" - get it? Twin Peaks, "Dual Spires"? - Shawn and Gus find themselves summoned to the bizarre yet idyllic little mountain village of Dual Spires in order to solve the murder of the town's beloved teen queen: Paula Merral.
If Paula Merral looks familiar, it's because the name is an anagram of Twin Peaks' own teenaged murder victim, Laura Palmer. Rounding out the episode's bizarrely spot-on replication of Twin Peaks' signature brand of weirdness: the sheer number of Twin Peaks cast members who turn up in guest-starring roles, including Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, Dana Ashbrook, Robyn Lively, and Ray Wise.
7 Worst: Think Tank
It's a rare thing, to be able to call an episode of Psych forgettable. But episode fourteen of season four, "Think Tank," is sadly exactly that. It's a misguided episode, one that puts Shawn and Gus in an entirely too serious setting: a corporate think tank, devoted to preventing the suspected murder of a prominent business figure. Putting Shawn and Gus in bizarre scenarios is what this show does best.
But sometimes, there are some scenarios that just don't lend themselves to productive storytelling, for the characters and the audience both. Aside from a few quips here and there, the episode does little more than squander a guest appearance by the always wonderful Chris Sarandon.
6 Best: Office Space
Psych doesn't always need to rely on parody and tributes in order to be at the top of its game, however. Look no further than the seventh season episode "Office Space" for the perfect example of how a comedy of errors, turned up to eleven, can truly make for some uniquely special television. After Gus's jerk of a boss is murdered, the same day that Gus engaged in a very public dispute with him, Gus is worried that he will wind up one of the primary suspects in the investigation.
It certainly doesn't help matters that Gus is the one to stumble upon his boss after he is murdered. Nor does it help that Gus inadvertently tampers with the crime scene to the extreme - and then brings Shawn in to do the same. The opening minutes of the episode alone make this one of the best comedic perfromances that Hill and Roday ever turned in, and solidify this episode as one of the best Psych ever made.
5 Worst: Talk Derby To Me
Hard as it may be for some to hear, it's something that needs to be said: Maggie Lawson's Juliet O'Hara is the weakest link in Psych's otherwise outstanding cast of characters and actors. Episodes that focus on her character, therefore, often stand out as some of the worst in the entire series. But few are as offensive as the season three episode "Talk Derby to Me," which finds Juliet going undercover with a rough and tumble women's roller derby team.
Of course, because this is Psych, the roller derby team also happens to be committing robberies, hence Juliet's involvement with them. But the group of characters are so flimsily developed, and Juliet's cover so poorly kept, that "Talk Derby to Me" stands out like a sore thumb among a series filled with otherwise impressive undercover operations.
4 Best: American Duos
Music is a major part of Psych. After all, how many shows can boast that they had not only a single musical episode, but an entire musical feature film length special? But the episode that first cemented the significance of music to the overall narrative of the series was the second season premiere, "American Duos." In this episode, Shawn and Gus go undercover as contestants on American Duos, the series' version of American Idol, in order to prevent further murders from happening on the series.
While undercover, they assume the monikers of Shawn Spenstarr and Gus T. T. Showbiz (where the extra T is for talent). With the sardonic humor of Tim Curry's Nigel St. Nigel on full display for the uproariously hilarious episode, "American Duos" served as a reboot of sorts for the series. From that episode onward, Psych would be zanier than ever, true to its nutty instincts, and never show a sign of slowing down or looking back. Plus, Shawn and Gus' show-stopping performance of Tears for Fears' "Shout" at the end of the episode stands out as one of the best scenes in the entire series.
3 Worst: Remake AKA Cloudy With A Chance Of Improvement
It's not every day that a series decides to remake one of its own episodes. It's also probably for the best, if the results of such an endeavor would produce lackluster episodes like the season eight "Remake AKA Cloudy with a Chance of Improvement." For some reason, the powers that be behind the series felt it was necessary to remake what was a truly strong first season episode - "Cloudy with a Chance of Murder" - and stick it into the middle of the final season, just because.
Looking past all the timeline headaches it creates (multiple titlecards inform viewers that this episode takes place seven years earlier), the episode is just nowhere near as good. The jokes aren't as tight, the guest cast isn't as strong, and Michael Weston's Adam Hornstock is nowhere near as adorably awkward as he was the first time around.
2 Best: Last Night Gus
Remember when The Hangover was shiny and new, and every show and their mother seemed to find it necessary to make their own take on the hilarity that ensues within that movie? You'd be hard pressed to find a show that executes this ridiculous adventure more successfully than Psych does, with its season six episode "Last Night Gus."
Putting together the truly bizarre group of characters in Shawn, Gus, Woody, Lassiter, and Henry - a gang that would never all socialize with one another under any sober circumstances - "Last Night Gus" follows the group as they try to reconstruct the night before, and determine whether they were involved in a mysterious murder. It also allows for some truly hilarious development for Kurt Fuller's ever underappreciated coroner, Woody Strode, who shines as the episode's comedic hero on more than one occasion - as does Hill, in the final act of the episode, when Gus is drugged yet again and finds himself fearing for his life.
1 Worst: A Nightmare On State Street
Sometimes, you really have to sit and wonder what a show was thinking when they decided to run with a certain episode. There's certainly nothing wrong with a show like Psych attempting a horror-inspired episode. Zombies are all the rage these days, so it's only natural that the episode features a protracted zombie chase sequence.
But the central conceit at the heart of the episode - that someone like Burton Guster would undergo dream studies at the hands of a crackpot doctor like Bruce Campbell's Dr. Simpson - just rings entirely false. It's a wasted episode, a waste of talented guest stars like Campbell and Phylicia Rashad, and a waste of the series' second to last episode ever.