PSYCH – The Complete Second Season DVD Review

     July 29, 2008

Reviewed by Jason Davis

For some years now, the USA network has taglined their original programs with the slogan “characters welcome.” More than an advertisement, the phrase is a mission statement that the network has taken to heart in developing one character-driven mystery series after another. In the summer of 2006, Psych joined the entertaining line-up with fraudulent psychic Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and his eclectic pal Burton Guster (Dulé Hill) as a pair of consultants who deploy the former’s uncanny observational skills to solve cases for the Santa Barbara Police Department. Created by Steve Franks (Big Daddy), Psych plunges a sitcom character, Spencer, into a dramatic series to create a marvelous dichotomy of tone that lends the pop culture-laden series a unique energy.

Roday’s eccentric performance, loaded with pineapple-based non-sequiturs, is perfectly complemented by Hill’s straight man repartee. Indeed, the Kevin Smith-esque character interactions are often so engaging that they utterly upstage the mystery plot at the heart of the episode. Surrounded by a classy ensemble including over-the-top homicide detective Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson), his charming partner Juliet O’Hara (Maggie Lawson), interim SBPD honcho Karen Vick (Kirsten Nelson), and Shawn’s retired cop dad Henry (Corbin Bernsen), the series quickly establishes a family vibe with Shawn as child prodigy amongst a slightly dysfunctional but endearing array of characters. The 16 episodes of season two add to the character-based comedy with top notch performances from Gina Gershon, Howard Hessman, W. Earl Brown, Kevin Sorbo, Ernie Hudson, Phylicia Rashad, Curtis Armstrong, Saul Rubinek, Melanie Lynskey, and my beloved Amanda Pays, who I’ve not seen since her episode of The X-Files over a decade ago. Of special note are Tim Curry as a Simon Cowell-style reality TV judge in the season opener “American Duo” and Lou Diamond Philips as a self-absorbed Treasury Department agent teemed with his own psychic (the marvelous Bianca Kajlich, who doesn’t appear on TV near enough for my liking). Noteworthy occupants of the director’s chair this season include feature directors John Landis and John Badham as well as former Growing Pains star Joanna Kerns, who’s carved out quite a niche helming quality TV shows.

Universal’s season two set comes in a peculiar package that makes getting at the DVDs something of a chore. Why TV shows can’t be issued exclusively in CBS/Paramount’s economically designed six DVDs to a single standard case conveyance is a mystery to me. As anyone with a large DVD collection knows, the smaller the space taken up by a season of TV, the better. Deleted scenes and audio commentaries abound. There are also a few less formal podcasts alongside the commentaries as well as some pointless montages that are vaguely amusing but don’t really warrant revisiting. The 16×9 transfers are solid and the 5.1 audio is active, but not overwhelming. I should also mention that the show’s music supervisor, Kerri K. Drootin, deserves a hearty pat on the back for her impeccable taste. Unlike it’s protagonist, this show is no con, it’s just pro…foundly fun.

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