The Show I Enjoy the Most While Talking About the Least
by Mark T.R. Donohue
I have part one of the two-night "Sarah Connor Chronicles" EVENT on the DVR, but I figured I would wait and watch both parts back-to-back before addressing it here. Also, "American Idol" is almost upon us again -- who's excited? I know I am. I had way, way more fun than I had any right to last year when I analyzed each and every performance, and believe it or not all my careful "Idol" study fed back into the way I compose and perform my own music. We'll see whether returning to the show with more savvy as to how the popularity contest works improves my prognostications any. I'm not going to touch the audition rounds, by the way -- that's not a musical competition, that's a geek show. WH "Idol" coverage will begin with the round of 16.
Before we get into all that, I wanted to take a second to praise a show that I watch all the time and almost never give the credit it deserves -- USA's "Psych," which started airing the last batch of new episodes from its second season last Friday. I think I had a slightly dismissive attitude about the show when I first started watching it on a recommendation from a trusted confederate, since it's so obviously just a younger-skewing repurposing of the "Monk" formula. James Roday's Shawn Spencer is a pathological liar instead of an obsessive-compulsive like Tony Shalhoub's Adrian Monk; his straight man/sidekick is a pharmaceutical salesman (and the sort of black character that Tracy Jordan would refer to as a "Carlton") instead of a single mom; the same crusty veteran/wide-eyed rookie dynamic is in place at the local police department only with some of the gender roles swapped around. As Shawn's advice-dispensing dad, Corbin Bernsen serves the same framing function on "Psych" as Stanley Kamel's psychiatrist character does on "Monk."
So why defend a show that's such blatant retread, particularly when the series being plagiarized earned a lot of its spark from its now-tarnished status as a total original? Well... I don't know whether this is a defense or not, but I am exactly "Psych"'s target audience and I kind of like being targeted. This is a show about underemployed late-20's guys for underemployed late-20's guys and the constant references to the marvelous trash culture of the 1980's -- Short Circuit, Wargames, Caddyshack -- ring my bell. Besides, as Shawn and Gus Roday and Dulé Hill have a straight-faced, deadpan way of trading pop culture references that reminds me of the way my slacker friends and I communicate and sets the series apart from Shalhoub's solo act over on "Monk." In fact, I almost think I like "Psych" better than "Monk" now, since the mysteries on each are completely forgettable and interchangeable. Except for the "Monk" with Snoop Dogg -- now that was just television of a higher order.