26 April, 2007
I’m a fan of Monk, “the defective detective”, which airs on the cable network USA. The channel introduced a new companion show last summer called Psych which has been called “Monk for morons” which is a little unfair.
While Psych doesn’t require much, if any, brainpower it is still enjoyable enough entertainment. The premise is that Shawn was raised by his strict police officer dad who drilled in him observation skills. However, no-one believes his uncanny powers of observation and so he pretends to get the relevant information by psychic powers instead. OK, that is a slightly shaky premise but don’t dwell on it too much.
The title derives from both ‘psychic’ and also ‘psych’ which the colonials say when they have tricked someone, for instance: “I think George W Bush is a genius who hasn’t messed things up at all. Psych!”
Monk is played for laughs but still has a good mystery story. Psych is the same but does require more goodwill and suspension of disbelief. Although having said that, the show certainly improved as the series went on.
An interesting thing to look at would be the construction of the world. Shawn is like Monk in terms of detecting but he is a completely different character with different motivations. Both characters are at times unlikeable, but Monk is easier to forgive due to his wife being murdered. Shawn can come across as just plain annoying which is partly due to the wacky sub-Carrey psychic act he puts on. Wacky antics are just too broad and obvious in terms of humour for me just as the humour of Monk is too subtle for a lot of people.
Shawn, as a character, needs a straight man to counter the wackiness and to look skywards in depair and to try and reign him in for the comedy to work properly. That was the role of his childhood friend Gus but Gus was underdeveloped and early on he didn’t really have enough to do. As the series progresses Gus’ wide knowledge becomes more integral to solving the cases and progressing the story.
One of the key relationships is the one between Shawn and his cop dad and each episode starts off with a flashback to Shawn’s childhood of something connected to the week’s story. That's simple but effective in terms of story and a fresher structure.
There is also the set-up at the police station to consider as you have to have the right mix of cops who aren’t too familiar or at least too similar to Monk. The obvious thing is to make the boss cop a woman instead of a man but they also make her pregnant. You also need a sceptical cop who objects to the police asking Shawn for help for the conflict.
Psych is recommended, give it a try.
Psych from 27 April, 7:00pm
(and BBC2 later this year)