My Favorite Cop Show

One of the first shows I ever watched on streaming Netflix was Psych. I’d just gotten my own account, since I had gone to college and my parents didn’t approve of me wanting to use their account to watch TV shows from HBO that involved the occasional bit of nudity and tons of murder (Dexter), so I got my own account. Around the same time, I became friends with a fellow English Major who works mostly on comics and she started what would eventually become a pattern of recommending TV shows I’d love by insisting that I watch Psych.

I did and I loved it. The casual humor that each character engages in feels so incredibly human and you can really see the bonds between the characters as they grow and change over the course of the show. The action is fairly low-key, always play third-fiddle to the mystery nature of the show and the comedy that keeps the whole things from getting too serious until the third season. There is danger involved in some of the episodes, but the plucky cheerfulness of the protagonist, Shawn Spencer, keeps it light until he admits that he needs to stop goofing around to focus on a case.

Shawn isn’t your typical detective, to be fair. He pretends to be a psychic detective in order to avoid getting in trouble with the police for always calling in spot-on tips for cases he sees on the news. In reality, he is using an extreme attention to detail, what appears to be a photographic memory, and amazing deductive reasoning skills to solve cases that are troubling even the head detective of the local (Santa Barbara) police force, Carlton Lassiter (which is probably my favorite name ever). Shawn shows up on the scene, makes a few while claims based on what he’s observed, and gets hired to help Lassiter and his partner solve a disappearance.

Shawn, excited for the new opportunity to goof around and get paid for the crazy antics he claims are his psychic powers manifesting, brings in his best friend, Burton Guster, who is a rather ordinary pharmaceutical sales representative. Gus, as he’s called whenever Shawn isn’t introducing him to someone new, is pragmatic, realistic, sensible, and cautious. He is the opposite of Shawn and keeps him grounded whenever he gets too caught up in his antics to focus on what is going on. Despite their clear personality conflicts, you can easily see how close the two friends are because Gus not only puts up with Shawn’s games, but leans into them with an ease that can only result from experience. Gus never misses a beat and is always ready to back up whatever hair-brained scheme Shawn is trying to pull as long it won’t get either of them killed, break too many laws, or result in Gus losing his job.

The two of them eventually open their own psychic detective agency, with Shawn doing most of the detecting and Gus managing the business side of things, even if he only does it reluctantly at first because Shawn forged his signature on a lease for their rental space. Throughout the series, Gus keeps their business running and Shawn grounded, while Shawn gets them cases and keeps their lives from stagnating or ever being boring. They make an excellent pair and the chemistry between the actors is amazing. Unlike most other characters who had to struggle through an awkward introductory phase before you could really feel their comfort around each other, Shawn and Gus felt like best friends from the very beginning, with all of the petty arguments, unconditional support, and touching moments of true friendship you’d expect of people who have been close friends for over two decades.

Unlike a lot of TV shows I’ve watched that were produced during the same period, the characters in Psych never stop feeling like people. Even my second favorite Cop Show, Castle, starts to lose that as the seasons go on and the characters just seem to be able to endlessly go on despite everything that happens. Gus gets pissed at Shawn and his behavior changes for a while. Shawn and Juliet, the detective junior partner to Lassiter, have a complicated relationship as they flirt with each other, that changes based on their development and other relationships. The chief of the police goes from being a grumpy woman attempting to do her best at her job and find a way to turn it from an interim position into a full one to being a warm but still very cross woman who won’t take any shit from her subordinates or contractors. Even Shawn’s dad goes from being an angry father with unreasonably high expectations of his son to being an important part of Shawn’s support network who just wants to make sure his son is doing well.

Now, even though it isn’t available on Netflix anymore, I recommend watching it. Buy the seasons or watch it on Amazon’s streaming service. I recommend buying it if you’ve got the money, since there are some weird audio/video sync issues with the Amazon episodes I’ve been watching that have taken almost an entire season to get used to (or have mostly vanished. It is hard to tell, sometimes). The eight seasons are worth your time and you will be laughing your way through way more episodes than you planned.


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