Shawn Spencer and Burton “Gus” Guster haven’t had a new adventure on television for three years, after USA’s long-running detective comedy The Mentalist Psych closed up shop, presumably for good. But this is 2017 and in the midst of Peak TV it’s become a truism that no show is ever truly gone; it will either be remade, revived, or find new life as a miniseries or movie. It’s the latter for Shawn and Gus, as the two get back together — though it’s nice to know they were never really apart — for Psych: The Movie, which makes for a great end-of-the-year treat, a reason to laugh-out-loud for two hours and let the series prove that it still has something left in the tank, should, you know, this effort turn out to be more than just a one-and-done special.
From the start, Psych: The Movie proves to be a revival worth fans’ time. Sure, there’s something to be said about having three years off to recharge the creative batteries, something other shows, like BBC’s Luther and Sherlock do — though that has more to do with the availability of the actors involved than it does giving the writers time away from the grind of creating television for, in the case of Psych, anyway, eight seasons in a row. Nevertheless, there is a sense of renewed energy and enthusiasm apparent in the series upon its return — especially from James Roday and Dulé Hill — that immediately assuages any doubts about he viability of the project or whether or not the show could perform to expectations, let alone create a buzz for more. Rather than cringe and look away, like when a once-great athlete returns for one last playoff push and finds that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, everyone involved is at the top of their game.
The cast, including Maggie Lawson, Corbin Bernsen, Kurt Fuller, and Kristen Nelson (health issues unfortunately prevented Timothy Omundson from having a larger role than he did, though it was touching to see him briefly provide Juliet with some much-needed words of encouragement), are all terrific and serve the needs of the Psych and Psych fans, if not, in the case of Bernsen and Fuller’s characters, the needs of the plot so much.
The plot here is mostly inconsequential, as it really only serves to fuel interactions between Shawn and Gus, and to answer the question of why, after three years, are Shawn and Juliet not yet married. In order to do that, Psych arranges its A and B plots to focus on Zachary Levi’s improbably bottled blond Thin White Duke character — complete with British accent — as the Big Bad, a former snitch who wants revenge on Juliet for putting him in jail, and Shawn’s quest to find a particular engagement ring believed to have been lost, the elusiveness of which has become his thinly veiled excuse to forego a true, grown-up commitment. The two plots work well against one another as the efforts to find the Thin White Duke before he can enact his revenge somehow lead to conversations about Shawn and Juliet’s relationship, which, frankly, is a necessary part of Shawn’s maturation, but isn’t nearly as interesting as his relationship with Gus.
Shawn and Gus’s interactions have always been the most appealing aspect of Psych. And here, they are often laugh-out-loud funny, but moreover they’re familiar and welcoming to viewers in a way that’s reassuring without also pandering to what the audience expects. That’s mostly due to Roday and Hill’s performances, but it’s also because Psych cheats a little, in the best way possible; it cleverly diverges from the typical crime-solving duo formula. Shawn, given his knack for spotting details and spinning them into gold, would normally be thought of as the lead, the fun or wacky one, which, by all accounts, would ostensibly mean Hill’s Gus would play the straight man, the Watson to Shawn’s Sherlock. Psych goes in the opposite direction making both of its lead characters into unconventional heroes with a laundry list of cute, funny, albeit semi-annoying eccentricities (for any “normal” person who has to spend any amount time with the two). They’re like comedic black holes, pulling in everything around them — i.e., all the typical procedural cop show shenanigans — until those elements are crushed under the immense pressure of their extreme personalities until it doesn’t matter what the case is anymore.
The ability to reduce key elements of a police procedural until they’re disposable plot nuggets is paramount to making a long-running TV show like Psych, and The Movie takes it a step further, demonstrating the disposability of two key characters. One of the strangest jokes (at least it seems like a joke) is gunning down and then smothering Juliet’s new partner, who’s played by Sam Huntington. A charming actor, the idea of Huntington stepping in for Omundson is an appealing proposition, so seeing him taken out by a peroxide blond Zachary Levi felt a little odd — funny even. But it’s not until the movie’s third act, when a similar fate befalls Levi’s Thin White Duke – who up until that point had been a convincing bad guy – how funny it is the show shrugs these two characters off with absolutely zero pomp and circumstance.
That’s what makes Psych: The Movie work: the sense that “Eh, might as well” may have been a mantra for the production. Not taking itself too seriously always worked well for the series. Given the expectations of a return after a three-year absence, the need to make a return feel superficially more meaningful could have been a problem. Instead, Psych: The Movie uses a mercifully light touch, one that keeps the laughs on a steady drip while also pushing Shawn and Juliet toward a milestone without it seeming too forced.
In the end, it has only been three years since the show ended, but as far as getting the Psych gang back together, this is the kind of TV reunion that makes you want more of them — as long as they can be this much fun.
Screen Rant will have more details on the future of Psych as news is made available.
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