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Skepchick TV Review: Psych

You’re a good, rational thinker, right? Well then, quit whining about all the credulous BS infecting your television and start enjoying brainier fare. To help you out, I’ll be periodically reviewing TV shows, movies, DVDs, and whatever else I feel like. Yeah, this might get a bit random. First up: Psych!

Like every other show on television right now, Psych is about people who solve crimes. Unlike every other show on television, it isn’t a spin-off of CSI or Law & Order. Instead, it revolves around two childhood friends, Shawn and Gus, one of whom (Shawn) happens to be remarkably talented at observing people and situations. His skills were honed by his cop dad (Corbin Bernsen!) as a little kid, and these days he’s so good that he can occasionally solve mysteries just by having a quick look around the room.

Shawn pretends to be psychic so that the slightly credulous cops keep coming to him with cases and giving him the reward money when he solves them. If you can just buy all that, you’ll probably find the show pretty amusing, and even better, the show does a fantastic job of showing that there’s no difference between “being psychic” and being a good observer. Shawn constantly uses cold-reading techniques that TV psychics use — first taking note of every last detail about his mark, and then making educated guesses. When the guesses are right he latches onto them and builds them up. When they’re wrong, he wiggles out of it and leaves people thinking he was right all along. The character’s name might as well have been Shawn Edward.

Psych is unabashedly goofy, and some of the plots are ridiculous enough to make your eyes roll of their own accord. But still, the lead actors are kind of adorable (just look at them, don’t you want to give them a big hug?) and David Caruso sure never looked like he was having this much fun on CSI. Plus, they name their episodes things like “Meat is Murder, but Murder is Also Murder,” and “Shawn (and Gus) of the Dead.” I told you, adorable.

Psych is on the (basic cable) USA Network at 10pm on Friday, and you can catch reruns of the show until the next season debuts this summer. I was going to link to their web site where you can watch full episodes (helpful for our foreign friends), but they have some ridiculous video that starts automatically and plays annoying commercials over the top of my music while I’m frantically trying to figure out which of the dozen Firefox tabs was the cause. So screw you, USA Network, but still, seriously, go watch Psych.

In case you’re too lazy to read all the above, here’s a rating system I just pulled out of my can:

SKEPTICAL RATING: 4.5 out of 5

OVERALL RATING: 3.5 out of 5

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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39 Comments

  1. I don’t watch very much television, but for awhile now Psych has been one of those shows that I’ll watch if it’s on. It doesn’t take itself seriously, it’s plain old entertainment, and the skeptical aspect of the show of course gets a thumbs-up as well :)

  2. From the beginning I liked the not really a psychic bent of this show. — That it was well known Shawn was a cold reading mentalist, not a magickal psychic.

    Apart from that, I didn’t like the simplistic plots, where the bad guy is so obviously the only cast member left. — In that respect I far prefer shows like Law & Order.

  3. Thanks for the tip,

    I’ll check it out.

    That means I’ll have to plug in my cable (I watched Jenny McCarthy on Larry King live and un-pluged it in a fit of rage…)

    Right now, I’m syncing up my Riff Trax for “300” or “Beowulf”. I just can’t decide which movie deserves it the most. I’ll have to flip a coin.

    Oddly enough Gerard Butler was in “Beowulf and Grendel”, which is a TOTALLY good movie, in my opinion. (Way better than “Beowulf” or “300” for sure) .

    So it really can be just lousy directing, (or something) I guess.

    Thank god for RiffTrax,

    rod

    On a side note:

    I just got Seamus Heany’s ILLUSTRATED verson of Beowulf. (I’ve had the other one for years). Recomended. Seamus rocks! If you throw in pics, too good to be true (since it’s rumored that I can’t read…)

  4. Thanks for the thought of including a link for those of us who live in foreign parts, but we are sadly the victims of internet discrimination (at least in SE Asia and China) and our IPs are blocked from US network content, the I-Tunes store, etc. Thanks anyway.

  5. Yeah its a fun show. The only thing that bugs me is that Shawn not only has super observation skills, but he apparently has telephoto irises.

    Mythbusters deserves the skepchick seal of approval for obvious reasons I think.

  6. ooooooh… Someone must be psychic! I just spent much of Sunday watching season 2 Psych episodes. Now to figure out which of us was the psychic. I say me because I predated the review :) Or maybe it’s a conspiracy and Rebecca has planted cameras in my apartment. Probably not.. there was no mention of my new Legos. Hmmm… maybe it was just coincidence after all. It can’t be! I know! My future self must have invented a time machine and come back to leave subtle hints for me to watch a TV series because it would be vital for the future of mankind!

  7. I watched the pilot episode of this because it might be similar to Monk (which is also on USA and has some great writing – although the first season was by far the best), and anyway I didn’t like it much – I thought they were trying too hard to be “wacky” and it really didn’t work for me. But perhaps I’ll give it another whirl, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve gotten into a show after initially dismissing it.

    Also, as far as skeptical sort of tv shows, I would also say House (even though some of the medical stuff is a bit contrived at times). On the other hand, there’s lots of stuff that’s fantastic which isn’t in the least bit skeptical, but it usually doesn’t bug me since it’s supposed to be fiction…

  8. I nominate Spellbinder for a skeptical review!

    Spellbinder (Season 1) aired in Australia in 1995. The story is about a boy named Paul Reynolds who is transported into a parallel world where knowledge of Science is suppressed by the Spellbinders. In this world, the primitive villagers believe that the Spellbinders have magical powers and are too afraid to ask questions. In fact, the Spellbinders use Science to achieve their great powers.

    Things turn ugly when the Spellbinders learn that Paul is from another world and has great knowledge that will allow them to increase their powers.

    The “magical” objects that the Spellbinders possess include:

    > The Power Suit, which is made of metal and worn as clothing. The Spellbinders use these to control the population by throwing bolts of electricity at people.

    > The Eyestone, which is a radio the Spellbinders use to communicate.

    > The Summoning Tower, a giant metal structure which boosts the signal of the Eyestone.

    > Flying Ships, which levitate on an artificial magnetic field.

    The show illustrates what happens when people are ignorant of Science. It was a show I enjoyed as a kid and I can only hope that similar shows air on Australian Television in the future.

  9. Even though I’m one of those annoyingly superior “I don’t really watch TV” type of people, this is a show I have watched and enjoyed. It is ridiculous at times, but very funny.

  10. I’ve actually been waiting for someone in the skeptical world to post an article/opinion about Psych for some time now. It’s good enough that I try to watch it when it’s on, but I will not go too far out of my way to see it. Despite the near superhuman powers of observation afforded to the fake psychic, you have to give USA props for making a show that so blatantly mocks the idea of psychic powers.

    On a side note, as a Santa Barbara resident (where the show is set) I get a little ticked off when they film certain episodes at locations that don’t exist in the area like the planetarium, or refer to a non-existent jerked chicken take out restaurant, or the fact that almost everything but the credits is filmed in Canada.

  11. One truth that Psych shows us is that it’s easier for most people to believe in psychic powers than in a person’s ability for logical observation and reasoning.

    Also, it’s not just that the two leads are adorable — the whole cast is hug-worthy. Even the two kids who play Gus and Shawn in the flashbacks.

  12. Bones is a definite must review. It has consistently portrayed ‘good science’ better than any other tv show I’ve seen. There are a couple of ‘cringe-worthy’ moments, but is there anything that doesn’t have that?

  13. I watch shitloads of TV.

    Just to counter balance all of those people who have to say that they don’t watch TV and to encourage the rest of the oppressed and ridiculed TV lovers to come out of the closet and stand proud.

    And I love Psych. It totally cracks me up.

  14. Glad to see we’ve got other lovers of Psych on board! It definitely is goofy, but sometimes I’m in the mood for that.

    Thanks for the suggestions for future reviews! Just as a heads up, I’ll probably lean toward things that might otherwise be getting overlooked. So, yeah, I love me some House but probably won’t review it. Or, maybe I will just to go on at length about how sexy he is.

  15. It’s not like Psych is all that realistic, but it is nice to see the characters who believe in psychics as the silly ones for once.

    And yeah, it’s just a fun show.

    “Even though I’m one of those annoyingly superior ‘I don’t really watch TV’ type of people…”

    Stuff White People Like: Not Having a TV

  16. The other great thing about Psych is that, when they did their episode where Shawn encountered another psychic detective, they didn’t try to pull the usual “But is she the real deal??” trick. Nope, they went straight to, “Ok, that was not bad, but really you gotta play up the theatrics more.” ;)

    And also the fact that they threw in a haunted house and a mummy and went for the Scooby-Doo ending both times. (And not the godawful 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo ending, either!)

    Rebecca, have you seen the second season episode with the Spanish soap opera yet? Was it not the most hilarious thing ever?

  17. Why psych is good for skepticism.

    Instead of portraying a skeptical jerk, so dedicated to science [or medicine] that he has no compassion or social understanding, Shawn is a likable character.

    Even better is the way Shawn goes completely over the top during his psychic visions. It’s this relentless yet playful mocking of psychic mannerisms that may get fence-sitters to question some of their beliefs. It’s a little bit of rationality wrapped up in a light hearted entertaining package.

  18. Sorry, I hated this show because the the main characters are such jerks. They prey on the gullible and are committing fraud. It is cynical and demeaning of the writers/producers to presuppose that the guy couldn’t possible tell folks how he ACTUALLY solves the crimes, because that would be too ‘unbelievable’.

    I get that that’s the joke, but it leaves me sour all the same.

  19. I just want to pinch their cheeks! So damned cute.

    Oh, and I should mention that ironically, I am one of those annoying white people who does not own a television. However, I do own a computer and that wastes more than enough time.

  20. “I know, you know, that I’m not telling the truth.”

    Psych is on Norwegian NRK3 every Monday at 21.25.

    I love it, even if I _could_ nitpick it to shreds if I wanted to. I missed the first episode… because I figured it would be yet another show where just the promotions would make me want to kill the TV, but some of the posts here made me look it up on wikipedia, and here’s the reason why he pretends to be a psychic:

    “Theorizing that such knowledge could only come from the inside, they are about to arrest him when he uses his observations to convince all present that he is psychic. The interim police chief warns Shawn that if his “powers” are fake, he will be prosecuted. With no choice but to keep up the act, he makes the most of it.”

    Makes sense to me. :D

  21. Oh, and they don’t really take advantage of people, except when it might help with a case, or get Shawn laid. And that hasn’t really been a string of successes so far, but then I’m just halfway through the first season.

  22. Since we all seem to agree about the cuteness and hug-worthiness of the cast, I think we need a new Skepchick poll: which character on Psych is the most huggable?

    My vote is for Lassiter. You’re not fooling anybody with that macho tough-guy act, Lassie, but it’s just so adorable to watch you try…

  23. Hah!

    I love this show. Especially the theme song.

    [quote]I know, you know, that I’m not telling the truth,
    I know, you know, they just don’t have any proof,
    Embrace the deception, Learn how to bend,
    You’re worst inhibitions will psych you out in the end[/quote]

    My gf doesn’t like it as much, but then, she’s into Sylvia Browne and the like.

  24. writerdd // Apr 8, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    “jrpowell, I think you’re just jealous because Gus and Shawn are so damned cute. ”

    OUCH!

    I prefer my wife’s lies… She’d say they are bot too darn skinny. ;^)

  25. I am totally jumping on the Psych love-fest. Very huggable.. and other things-able too ;-)

    Did you guys see the Spanish soap opera episode where they translated the whole theme song into Spanish? Priceless…

    I am an addict when it comes to TV and I am not ashamed!

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