USA Network has kept its tongue firmly planted in its cheek the past decade with a slew of crime shows that don’t take themselves too seriously. The trend started with “Monk” in 2002 and has continued with other gut-busters including “Burn Notice” and “Psych,” which sees its fourth season coming to DVD this month.
All these shows attempt to strike a balance — thrilling detective procedure one minute, snarky or self-deprecating humor the next. “Psych” has trouble staying out of the muddled middle though; most of the time, the procedure’s not so fascinating, and the jokes aren’t so witty.
James Roday stars as Shawn Spencer, a smart-aleck hired by the Santa Barbara Police Department as a psychic detective. One little thing — Shawn’s no psychic. Trained by his cop father (Corbin Bernsen) as a kid to be extra-observant, Shawn is able to notice things that most people can’t, creating an aura of extrasensory knowledge.
Aided by sidekick Gus (Dule Hill), Shawn gets under the skin of most of the police department’s real detectives, but they can’t argue with his results, which bring down an art thief, mobsters and all kinds of crazed killers in Season 4.
Too bad it’s all starting to feel like a rote exercise at this point. Perhaps the lion’s share of the show’s dullness lies in its conceit, a bright idea that worked well early in the show’s run but has seriously lost its luster. There’s just not that much excitement to be found in someone paying really close attention.
Roday and Hill wring some humor out of their odd couple faux-conflicts, but it’s hard not to feel more annoyed than charmed by Roday’s devil-may-care shtick. The few episodes of Season 4 that really hit their stride are bolstered more by clever capers than snappy gags.
It doesn’t take psychic abilities to tell that “Psych” mostly reinforces notions of basic cable inferiority.
DVD features: Deleted scenes, gag reel and way more video and audio commentaries than anyone could need.