Screen Savors: Getting the details right

The psychic thing? Well, that sorta just happens.

February 8, 2007 17:27
3 minute read.

Hang around YES Star's new import Psych long enough, and you develop an eye for details. OK, maybe not as sharp as that of Shawn Spencer, a ne'er-do-well kid who's held about 150 jobs since graduating college ("I dragged the infield for Nolan Ryan") but thanks to his dad has settled down to a nice, solid career as a psychic private detective. Well, not really psychic. 'Cause thanks to former policeman dad (Corbin Bernsen, Arnie of L.A. Law), he's developed the knack of noticing just about everything around him. In fact, in a cute opening, we're shown young Shawn being denied dessert by Dad at the local diner unless he can tell him "how many hats" in the room. Bingo, the kid's got it, down to the last chapeau. The psychic thing? Well, that sorta just happens. I mean, how else are you going to explain to the cops how you happen to know who's behind the latest robbery - Shawn actually figures it out from clues he picks up while watching a TV newscast while in the midst of making out with a diner waitress in a cute spin ahead 20 years later - which quickly earns the Santa Barbara native a shot at solving the kidnapping of a rich man's son that has the police stumped. Picking up on little things at the station house when he's called in to explain how he nailed the perpetrator in the robbery, he latches on to conversations and little pieces of information - like the lead detective stroking the neck of his assistant - to convince the cops he "feels" and "hears" things, going into a dopey bit of writhing and wiggling to add to his act. "It's hard to explain," he says with his conman grin. "I'm gifted." With the senior detective suspicious and the junior one he's having an affair with wondering just how Sean does it, our hero does what every self-respecting TV hero does: he gets himself a sidekick. Not just any sidekick, but his best friend Burton "Gus" Guster (Dule Hill, Charlie on The West Wing), a pharmaceuticals salesman who alternates between keen interest and total disgust with his friend's antics. Hill does well as the befuddled, disgusted but can't-seem-to-not-be-interested straight man, a partner who throws up when he sees or hears someone talk about murder. The script fairly crackles, as when Shawn befriends a burly suspect who provides him with a clue he can sell to the detectives. Turning to the huge man, who's got "Bloodthirsty" tattooed across his forehead, Shawn says: "You know, I have the same tattoo? They spelled 'bloodthirsty' wrong on mine. You'd think somebody would invent some kind of spellcheck for those ink guys." James Roday (Miss Match) is superb in his break-out performance as Shawn. We know he's great because sometimes we want to hug him and sometimes we want to smack him. The pair goofily follow the investigation, using anything from clips from The National Inquirer ("These guys are cowboys. They hide in bushes - they know what's going on") to a back-of-the Sports Illustrated-ordered pair of binoculars ("it came with a DVD of Auburn's greatest buzzer-beaters") to phony phone calls to solve the case. Along the way he woos a pretty girl, hooks up again with his estranged dad, and drives everyone around him crazy. Still, there's plenty to like about him: he's nutty but brilliant, a la Monk, coincidentally on the same US network. And like the compulsive one, it's his special "gift" that grabs you, with the details he notices getting lit up on the screen as he sees them. Of course, he's also not averse to using other more tried and true methods, as when he says to the woman detective: "They don't listen to you much around here, do they?" "Psychic insight?" she asks. "Shameless ass-kissing," he admits. Whether it's practicing his "surprised face" for when the cops realize he's right, barking like a dog to indicate he "sees" the victim's dog, or practicing his PR ("I'm secretive, mysterious, enigmatic," says Shawn. "Delusional," adds Gus), Shawn Spencer is a hoot. Buoyed by his initial success and an offer from the pregnant interim chief of police (veteran character actress Kirsten Nelson) to continue working for her squad, Shawn opens Psych: Private Psychic Detective. After being told he's the signator on the mortgage, the practical Gus asks: "What's your dental plan?" "Don't get cavities," says Shawn. While "seeing" things for Shawn may be all in the details, you don't have to be a psychic to know that Psych is going to be a hit

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