“Psych” began to air in 2006 on the USA network and is still a beloved fan favorite. This hour-long sitcom is full of great characters, light adventure and comedy. Nothing in the show is overly graphic or violent, despite the fact that most episodes have to do with solving a murder.
A Lot of Character Goes Into Psych
Besides all of the regular characters on “Psych,” there are plenty of amazing special guests in many episodes. Shawn and Gus (especially Shawn) speak in “popculturese” (the language of film and TV). They are big fans of pop culture, and they make tons of pop culture references. No doubt the show attracts many who are speaking the same language.
Each opening scene is a flashback to Shawn’s childhood and some lesson he, Gus or Henry (Shawn’s father) needed to learn that is related to part of the current episode. Sometimes it’s tied to Shawn’s skills and gives viewers a deeper insight into his relationship with his father.
Creative Job Planning
Psychic detective Shawn Spencer and his partner Gus (nicknames: T.T. Show Biz, John Slade, Big Head Burton, the list goes on and on) are consultants to the Santa Barbara Police Department. This job came to be since Shawn appeared suspicious for calling in so many tips; the cops began to suspect him to be some master criminal. Naturally, one would just pretend to be a psychic.
Shawn Spencer: Psychic Detective-Manchild, Played By James Roday
Shawn has amazing observational skills; it is likely a combo of natural talent paired with all of the tests and challenges his father Henry (a police detective) gave him growing up. Shawn is also a “manchild,” has an avid TV/movie vocabulary, and makes really ridiculous statements in jest.
Gus: Burton Guster, Played By Actor Dule Hill
Since Gus is Shawn’s childhood friend, and they have a very close, almost co-dependent relationship, the Psych Detective agency was born. Gus is a pharmaceutical sales rep, a tap dancer, a sympathetic crier and renaissance man. He seems to know a lot about most things, including a knowledge of area codes and zip codes.
Carlton Lassister AKA Lassie, Played By Timothy Omundson
Carlton Lassister, or Lassie as the boys affectionately refer to him, is a by-the-book head detective of the Santa Barbara Police Department. He likes to Civil War roleplay and is usually not amused by Shawn and Gus’s antics. After going through so much together, and from several instances of bonding, he eventually warms up to them.
Juliet O’Hare AKA Jules, Played By Maggie Lawson
Jules is Lassister’s partner, and someone Shawn is semi pursing in the early seasons, to a more series pursuit in Season 6. She is an interesting mix of tom boy yet sweet girl. Her father also happens to be a con man, who disappeared a lot on her. Perhaps this is why she is a detective.
Henry Spencer, Played By Corbin Bernsen
Henry was a detective for the Santa Barbara Police Department and was in retirement through half of the show. Eventually the Chief of Police assigns Henry as a supervisor for the consultants. He often helps Shawn and Gus. This character is supposedly based around Steve Franks’ real-life father.
Woody Strode the Coroner, Played by Kurt Fuller
Woody may or may not have always been working for the Santa Barbara Police Department, but we only start to see him in Season 4. Woody began to make regular appearances in Season 6, especially after the bonding between all the men in the episode “Last Night Gus.” He regularly comes up with outlandish and off-the-wall theories (like “vampires did it”). Here, he was testing a gun shot on a watermelon.
Holiday and Christmas Episodes
“Psych” aired three separate Christmas episodes in the early seasons: “Gus’s Dad May Have Killed an Old Guy,” “Christmas Joy,” and “The Polarizing Express.” Each of these episodes had a Christmassy opening as pictured below, and the theme song was also enhanced in a holiday music style.
Gus’s Dad May Have Had Cosmetic Surgery?
We meet Gus’s parents for the second time during “Christmas Joy,” and in this episode his dad changes from Ernie Hudson into Keith David. “The Cosby Show” actress Patricia Rashad remains the same, however. Shawn and Gus’s sister had a “thing” during this holiday-themed episode.
Favorite Storylines – The Yin & Yang Killer
This storyline was featured over three episodes as part of different annual season finales. The Yin/Yang serial killer left clues, worked with opposites (as the name implies), was in hiding since 1995, and resurfaced because he found Shawn to be a “worthy opponent.” The three episodes were: “Evening with Mr. Yang,” “Mr. Yin Presents,” and “Yang in 3D.” Yang’s daughter, played by Ally Sheedy, was also later seen in “Psych the Musical.”
Mr. Yin Presents is Full of Hitchcock References
Mr. Yin, the serial killer, was played by RoboCop and Dexter actor Peter Weller. In “Yang in 3D” (the episode shown here) they featured iconic scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s most popular films such as Rear Window, North by Northwest, Marnie and Vertigo.
Pierre Despereaux AKA Royston Cornwallis Staley
Despereaux was a professional art thief, and a criminal mastermind. Or did he really work for Interpol? We may never really know. But Shawn and Gus worked with Pierre through several episodes throughout the series.
The Greatest Thief Who Ever Lived
Pierre Despereaux was played by Cary Elwes, and his character was a cross between Indiana Jones and classy James Bond. He makes elaborate but elegant plans that befuddle the local authorities. Shawn also really admires the guy.
Lock, Stock,Two Smoking Barrels and a Goblet of Fire
This episode is the fourth and final episode with the character Despereaux, titled “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and a Goblet of Fire.” Gus is, of course, attending a Harry Potter convention in England (PotterCon) when we discover that Despereaux works for Interpol.
The Pineapple is an inside joke seen throughout the show in every episode. There is always either an actual pineapple or a drawing of one, or the word pineapple is mentioned. This became a running gag after Shawn picked up one and improvised with it, asking “should I slice this up for the road?” Most fan sites dedicate some portion of their forums to finding the pineapples in each episode.
Another notable character in “Psych” is Gus’s car, the company vehicle called “The Blueberry.” The Blueberry is a Toyota Echo. It also had an interesting night in the “Last Night Gus” episode. Once it needed repairs and was replaced with a rental called ‘The Cranberry.” Eventually The Blueberry was split into during the episode “Cog Blocked.” Sleep well, sweet Blueberry.
Another running gag is when Shawn introduces Gus as someone else. With names such as Ghee Buttersnaps A.K.A the Heater, Die Harder Squirts Macintosh, John Jacob Jingle Heimer Schmidt, this was one of his most ridiculous. Gus also uses the term super sniffer to describe his extra strong nose, and is often mistaken as Bud from “The Cosby Show.”
I Know You Know
Steve Franks and his band The Friendly Indians created the theme song, “I Know You Know.” The song is sometimes extended to a longer version for the opening and even done in different styles sometimes. Boys to Men covered the song for a few episodes. Julee Cruise, who created the theme for “Twin Peaks,” performed the song for the “Dual Spires” episode. “Heeeeere’s Lassiee” was styled in homage to The Shining and had a creepy theme with scenes to remind you of the Stephen King film. The Bollywood episode was done in Hindi, and there was a Spanish version for the episode where Shawn is in a Spanish soap opera.
The costume department deserves praise for the additional laughs they give fans. In the episode “Disco Didn’t Die. it was Murdered!” the boys and Henry dress the part as they investigate an old arrest of Henry’s. Shawn seems to enjoy playing dress up to be in disguise and “undercover.”
Psych the Musical
In Season 7, the show aired a two hour musical episode, which is available on DVD and streaming. This work was in the writing process for years. Steve Franks and Adam Cohen created all the songs for the episode, and Broadway star Anthony Rapp played the character Z.
Tuesday the 17th
Among fan favorite episodes is “Tuesday the 17th.” This episode was aired during Season 3, and was done in the style of many 80s slasher films such as Friday the 13th and April Fool’s Day. Each character in this episode was named after characters and real people from famous works of horror.
In the style of the movie Clue, The 100 Clues episode featured Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren and Christopher Lloyd as special guests (all were in Clue). The episode was dedicated to Madeline Kahn (Mrs. White in Clue) who had passed away that year. Lloyd’s character’s last name was also named Kahn in honor of her memory.
You’re Invited. Lucky You.
The “100 Clues” episode was also the 100th episode, so for many fans, honoring Clue just made sense. The house was similar to Hill House in the film Clue, with the exception of a secret chocolate room. We also get to see a singing telegram, a falling chandelier, random running throughout the house, and them splitting up into teams of two.
The Butler Did It
“Psych” and Clue are done in similar styles, with the mystery and the farce. Clue had three different endings, and fans were able to vote and tweet to choose who the culprit should be. The three different endings were sent out to different theaters for showing.
Another fan favorite is the “Dual Spires” episode, done in the style of “Twin Peaks.” Even the opening credits where changed and the music was restyled after the iconic 90s series. Gus and Shawn wind up in some small town barely on a map for a cinnamon festival. In true “Murder She Wrote” fashion, they get caught up trying to discover who killed Paula Merral . The show featured seven special guests from the “Twin Peaks” series.
Last Night Gus
In the style of The Hangover, the boys, Lassie and Coroner Woody (Kurt Fuller) wake up at the Psych office with no memory of the end of their evening. They started off at a very boring retirement party — what could have happened?. They attempt to piece the night together with clues, and wonder if Lassie finally went nuts and killed someone.
Last Night Gus Had Game… Maybe Woody Did Too?
Woody, Lassie, Gus and Shawn really bond during the “Last Night” episode. Lassister and Woody have no memory of the previous night of celebrations. They wake up in the office, with lots of strange items around them. Who knows what happened?
In this “Psych” homage to The Shining and Rosemary’s Baby, Lassiter moves into a new condo building with some eerie goings-on. The team attempts to determine if there are indeed ghosts afoot. Lassiter starts to lose it in true Lassie fashion. All work and no play made him just a wee bit mad.
Lassie gets married, so of course the guys throw him a bachelor party. It wouldn’t be a “Psych” episode if someone didn’t wind up dead or almost dead, though. Protip: never try to kill people at a cop wedding — that’s just dumb.
Tim Curry in “American Duos” (Season 2)
The Season 2 premiere featured a play on the television show “American Idol” and Tim Curry played the Simon-type judge. The twist is that someone was trying to kill him. Curry was the first of several actors from the film Clue to appear on Psych, and he is also connected to Stephen King, as he played that creepy clown Pennywise in the iconic King film It.
William Shatner played Juliet’s conman father Frank. He appeared in two different episodes, “In for a Penny” and “Heeeeere’s Lassie.” Frank is referred to a few other times during the show, but not seen. He left a big impression on viewers because he’s Shatner, after all.
Ally Sheedy played the recurring criminal character Mr. Yang. The Breakfast Club actress was one of several from the famous “Brat Pack” to join the “Psych” cast as special guests throughout the series.
Judd Nelson Appeared in Season 4
In “Death in the Air,” Judd Nelson plays scientist Dr. Steven Reidman, who is trying to help Shawn and Gus track down a deadly virus that may have been released in Santa Barbara. He is the foremost authority on the Thornburg virus and carries a stethoscope. He is interested in measuring Gus’s head –another running joke is that Gus has a large head, or magical, head.
Shawn must pretend to be crazy to go undercover in a mental asylum where Lassister had put an innocent guy away. Brad Dourif, who plays the accused, starred in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Molly Ringwald guest stars as Nurse McElroy in this episode, “Shawn Interrupted,” in Season 6.
“Psych” has had a such a huge following it has its own special Wika Page (separate from Wikipedia), it’s on Fanpop, and there are numerous other websites devoted to the show. People produce incredible “Psych” art work, fan fiction and more.
Going to Psych You Out in the End
“Psych” ran for eight seasons on USA and is in syndication on ION television. It is the type of program you can watch over and over and not get tired of it. The show, with all its the homages to other favorite programs, great characters and special guests, will be enjoyed by fans for years to come.
Where You Can Enjoy Psych Today
You can currently watch all eight seasons (121 episodes) on Netflix, and occasionally on USA or ION. There are a variety of themed DVDs with themed episodes such as this spooktacular “Psycho-o-ween collection.” And of course all eight seasons are available for purchase.