If I were to rank my favorite television shows, I'm pretty sure Psych would be in the top 10 somewhere. Maybe even top 5. I'm not sure what the exact number would be as I'm just too lazy to really figure out my favorite shows but yeah, Psych is definitely up there. It just has so much that appeals to me: the dynamic between Shawn and Gus, the themed episodes, and the big-name guest stars they always seem to attract.
Even though the seventh season of Psych ended back in May, USA Network held back the final two episodes to air as a two hour special. Remember how I mentioned one of the draws of the show was the themes? These episodes are no different. But the theme they chose is a little off-kilter.
This special two-parter is a musical.
That's right. Unlike most other long-running television programs (with a few notable exceptions), Psych tackles the idea of a musical-themed episode. As I'm not a fan of musicals in general, I was a little nervous that the special would come off as hokey or ridiculous. But I trust the Psych writers as they tend to have more hits than misses and this two-parter was put together well, maintaining the spirit of the show and the characters.
Psych: The Musical opens with a careful introduction to the players, namely Shawn and Gus (James Roday and Dulé Hill, respectively). "Under The Santa Barbara Skies" explains Shawn's long con of pretending to be a psychic so that he can assist the Santa Barbara Police Department with solving homicide cases. It's an effective way to make the special accessible to new viewers that may not be aware of the show's premise. The song also serves a secondary purpose, to introduce Shawn's feeling of dread that something bad is about to befall Santa Barbara.
"Under Santa Barbara Skies" is well sung and well choreographed, slowly easing viewers into the idea of a full blown musical. It maintains the same clever Psych-style of humor, such as the West Side Story reference of Gus encircling a knife-wielding thug. This is far from the only reference in the episode, which also has a recurring joke of Gus trying out for a musical version of Disney's Wall-E. There's also a clever reference to Shawn's fascination with actor Billy Zane with his comment of "There is no other Phantom" when someone mentions The Phantom of the Opera.
Most of the songs were on point, like "I've Heard It Both Ways" in which Shawn and Detective Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) try to prove their theories as right and the other's as completely ludicrous. What makes it such a great scene is how well Omundson and Roday play off of each other; their constant back-and-forth is a staple of the show, with Lassiter trying to keep his cool while Shawn always trying to get his goat. That kind of dynamic comes out well in this number.
The episode's lowest point comes from coroner Woody (Kurt Fuller) despite my affection for the character. His song, "Often It's the Opposite" just comes off as bland and rhythm-less. It spends too much time focusing on Woody's sad love life than adding anything to the plot which, I suppose, is the point but it seemed more like filler than anything else. As if they were just trying to shoehorn the character into the story.
But without a doubt, my favorite part of the episode was Gus. It's fairly common knowledge that Dulé Hill is an accomplished dancer, having starred off-Broadway alongside Savion Glover in Bring In Da' Noise, Bring In Da' Funk. This isn't the first time he's shown off his tap skills in the show, but it's probably the best use of them. I also loved "Jamaican Inspector Man", a song Gus "wrote" in an attempt to score a part in the fictional musical the episode revolves around.
Though I can't say Psych: The Musical is the best episode(s) of the series, it's probably the best of the season. It manages to retain most of the charm of the show, sticking closely to its theme and working as many of the series' in-jokes into the script as possible. Though the concept behind the show, the idea of Shawn's fake psychic powers, gets pushed to the back burner here, with his hyper-vigilance being barely used. Despite that, I look forward to adding Psych: The Musical to my DVD collection.