When I think of the most underappreciated great shows of the last 20 years, I think of Psych. The USA Network’s psychic-detective comedy series was consistently one of the smartest and wittiest shows on television during its eight year run. Throughout those eight years, the show developed a cult following that has only grown since the series finale aired in 2014. Psych‘s cast and crew is clearly very appreciate of their devoted and loyal fanbase to this day. That appreciation led to Psych: The Movie being released in 2017, three years after the conclusion of the show. The film garnered so much attention and praise from fans that a sequel, which is set to be released sometime in 2020, was quickly green-lit. While these films may be a godsend for Psych fans, like myself, who crave new Shawn and Gus adventures, they will never quite reach the heights that Psych did during its eight seasons on air. I want to use this blog as an opportunity to explore what made each of those seasons, and the show as a whole, so special.
There are many reasons one can point to when trying to figure out why Psych is such a beloved show amongst its fanbase. The high concept premise of a man using his heightened observational skills and photographic memory to assist the police department, under the guise of being a psychic, was certainly original for its time. The show’s writing is another key element that must be highlighted as well. Psych is a show that pulled off the difficult task of being both wildly silly and tremendously sharp at the same time. The writing staff’s ability to fill the 121 episodes of the series with memorable jokes, and some of the most eclectic pop-culture references you’ll ever hear, definitely helped it resonate with fans. Moreover, the show’s procedural format has made its episodes incredibly satisfying to rewatch. All of these things have helped make Psych special, but in my opinion, the show’s characters are the primary reason it continues to be watched and revered by fans to this day. The greatest TV comedies are the ones in which we care about the characters, not only because what they are saying is funny, but because we genuinely want them to succeed. Psych is a perfect example of this. Fans of the show continue to care about Psych six years after it ended not just because it made them laugh so much, but also because they genuinely felt a connection to Shawn Spencer, Burton Guster, Carlton Lassiter, Juliet O’Hara, Henry Spencer, and Karen Vick. This connection was aided by the fact that the cast of Psych had some of the best chemistry on television during their run. The characters on screen—especially Shawn and Gus—felt like actual friends, which only further endeared them to viewers. The show’s eight seasons simply would not have been the same without that palpable chemistry, which helped bring these characters to life.
Much like when I ranked the seasons of The Office and Community, I am going to list the seasons of Psych from worst to best. Additionally, I will be including my choice for the best episode from each particular season.
8. Season Eight
Like most long-running shows, the quality of Psych diminished over the course of its run. In Season Eight, the show had a lot of trouble capturing the energy and magic it possessed during its earlier seasons. It became clear that the writers were running out of ideas during the 10-episode run of the shortened final season. That being said, there are a few great moments spread out across the show’s farewell season that keep up from being a complete disappointment. Cary Elwes’ return in the opening episode of the season, “Lock, Stock, Some Smoking Barrels and Burton Guster’s Goblet of Fire,” was an incredibly satisfying moment for fans. Psych‘s final season would not have been complete without one last Pierre Despereaux episode, which is why I’m glad we got to see Elwes reprise his beloved character in Season Eight. Furthermore, I find the series finale episode, “The Break-Up,” to be a relatively fulfilling end to these character’s stories. “The Break-Up” was one of the few times in Season Eight where the main characters actually seemed like the people we enjoyed watching in the early seasons of the show, rather than the caricatures they had turned into for parts of the later seasons. Although Psych‘s final episode was a bit more understated than most series finales, I thought it fit the tone of the show incredibly well. At the end of the day, Season Eight was undoubtably the most up-and-down season in the history of Psych. This season feels, at times, incredibly dissimilar to the previous seven, which was a big disappointment to fans in the moment. Perhaps the biggest reason for this unfamiliar feeling regarding Season Eight was the addition of Anthony Michael Hall as Commissioner Trout. This character always felt far too cartoonish for the world of Psych, and Hall seemed to be acting in a different show than everyone else. Despite this season’s frequent lows, it still contains some enjoyable episodes and some moments that remind fans of the old Psych. It’s certainly not the best, but it’s definitely not unwatchable.
Best Episode of the Season: “The Break-Up” (Episode 10)
7. Season Seven
As I alluded to with my previous selection, Psych undeniably stumbled down the stretch. Although Season Seven was not as disappointing as Season Eight was, it was far from the show’s peak. On a rewatch of the show, I find that Season Seven lacks some of the fun that is more prevalent in the other seasons. Perhaps this is due to some of the darker storylines—the season opens with the cliffhanger ending of Season Six that involved Henry being shot, and later in the season we see the pivotal moment of Juliet finding out Shawn has been lying about his psychic gift. Also, Season Seven’s finale—which served as the introduction for the aforementioned Commissioner Trout—was the most underwhelming season finale in the history of the show. Much like Season Eight though, Season Seven was not all disappointments. I find the first half of the season to be quite enjoyable actually, and much better than the second half. It contains the episode “100 Clues,” which remains one of the most entertaining and creative themed-episodes in the history of Psych. Also, the characters were still much more grounded in Season Seven when compared to Season Eight. Ultimately, it is seemingly very difficult to keep a show going successfully past five or six seasons. When show’s get into their seventh seasons and beyond, original ideas are inevitably going to be harder to come up with. Moreover, rehashing old ideas becomes tiresome and stale. Despite its better moments, Season Seven of Psych definitely suffered from some of this creative stagnancy.
Best Episode of the Season: “100 Clues” (Episode 5)
6. Season Six
I promise this entire list is not going to line up perfectly in reverse order. Despite being a later season like Season Eight and Season Seven, Psych‘s sixth season is actually much closer to the show’s first five seasons, than the final two in terms of quality. If this isn’t the last great season, than it is at least the last very good season. It is also quite possibly the season that relied most heavily on the themed-episodes, that were so popular amongst Psych fans. Among the bevy of Season Six themed-episodes was The Hangover-inspired “Last Night Gus”; The ode to the vampire genre “This Episode Sucks”; Psych‘s patented superhero episode “The Amazing Psych Man & Tap Man, Issue #2,” The homage to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest “Shawn Interrupted”; The cult-themed “The Tao of Gus”; And The Shining/horror themed-episode “Heeeeere’s Lassie.” These are some of the most memorable episodes in the history of Psych. Furthermore, Season Six also gave us some of the biggest guest stars in the history of the show as well, including William Shatner, Danny Glover, Kristy Swanson, Corey Feldman, John Rhys-Davies, Malcolm McDowell, and Molly Ringwald. I think it is fair to say that Season Six may be the most grand season in the history of Psych. However, it does lack some of the heart and some of the intimacy prevalent in the show’s earlier seasons. At this point of the show, the writers seemed more interested in experimenting with form, rather than developing the characters any further. Therefore, Season Six seems to lack some of what made the show’s peak years so special. But, it is still a wildly entertaining and hilarious season.
Best Episode of the Season: “Last Night Gus” (Episode 2)
5. Season Four
Perhaps an unpopular choice for many Psych fans, I have Season Four as my fifth best season in the show’s history. I say this may be unpopular because many consider Season Four to be one of the show’s very best. Although I love much of Season Four, I find it to be somewhat of a step down when compared to the first three seasons of the series. Part of my problem with Season Four is that it got off to a fairly bumpy start. Although the series opener, “Extradition: British Columbia,” is an incredible episode, it is followed by three very underwhelming episodes that I don’t often find myself rewatching. After that initial hiccup though, Season Four of Psych contains much more high moments than low ones. It gives us regular appearances from Rachel Leigh Cook as Abigail Lytar, a great character that fit into this world perfectly. Moreover, the season finale, “Mr. Yin Presents…,” was a very successful follow-up to the unforgettable episode that concluded the show’s third season. Despite a lot of entertaining episodes though, Season Four just isn’t as compelling to me—on a rewatch—as some of the show’s other seasons are. I love the further exploration of the main characters as well as some of the more sincere moments we get in Season Four, but I just don’t consider it to be as great of a finished product as some of the seasons yet to come on my list. Season Four still holds an important place in the show’s prime, but the bar was just set too high by some of the seasons that surround it.
Best Episode of the Season: “High Top Fade Out” (Episode 7)
4. Season Five
Truthfully, Season Four and Season Five could easily switch places on this list. Personally, there are just simply a few more episodes I enjoy in Season Five, which gives it a slight edge over its predecessor. Perhaps the most noticeable storyline of Season Five is Shawn and Juliet finally coming together. This was an extremely satisfying moment for fans that had been waiting five seasons to see it happen, but truthfully, one of the things I enjoyed most about the Shawn and Jules relationship was the fact that it didn’t change the show too much. The creative forces behind Psych knew their success was due to hilarious characters and interesting crime-solving, so they made sure not to tinker with that too much when two of those characters began dating. Like every season of Psych, Season Five contained a variety of great guest stars. These included Jean Smart, Freddie Prinze Jr., John Michael Higgins, Nestor Carbonell, and Carl Weathers. In terms of great episodes, Season Five’s “Romeo and Juliet and Juliet,” “Not Even Close, Encounters,” “Shawn and Gus in Drag (Racing),” “Viagra Falls,” “Extradition II: The Actual Extradition Part,” and “Dual Spires” are among the most rewatchable episodes in the history of the show. Furthermore, one cannot talk about Season Five without mentioning the conclusion of the Yin/Yang trilogy that came at the end of it. While “Yang 3 in 2D” may not have been as great as the previous two episodes in the trilogy, it was still an entertaining end to what is perhaps Psych‘s most famous storyline. Season Five may not have reached the heights that the show did in its first three seasons, but it still deserves to be mentioned as an integral part of the show’s prime years.
Best Episode of the Season: “Extradition II: The Actual Extradition Part” (Episode 10)
3. Season One
At the number three spot on my list, we have the season that started it all. The first season of Psych introduced us to this world and these characters, which we quickly fell in love with. However, as with many shows—the first season of Psych feels just a tad different than the rest of the series. This is common for many shows because it can take time for the writers, actors, and producers to figure out the tone of the show. Also, sometimes it can take a season or two for the writers to fully grasp what the best version of their characters are. Despite some minor changes being made to Psych‘s main characters after Season One, it is still a very good representation of the show it would go on to be. There is one episode from Season One that is noticeably different from the rest of the series though. That episode is, of course, Psych‘s pilot. The most blatantly dissimilar aspect of this episode is the absence of the Juliet character. But, the versions of Shawn, Gus, and Lassiter that appear in the pilot are fairly different from who they would go on to be as well. Despite all of that, I actually find the pilot of Psych to be a relatively enjoyable episode. It is the rest of the season though, that is truly responsible for this season’s high placement on my list. Episodes like “9 Lives,” “Weekend Warriors,” “Shawn vs. The Red Phantom,” “Cloudy… With a Chance of Murder,” and “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, He Loves Me, Oops He’s Dead” are just a handful of the Season One episodes that remain some of the show’s best. Inevitably, there is going to be a lot of nostalgia involved with this ranking because Season One was the introduction to these characters. However, this season’s high ranking has as much to do with overall quality as it does with anything else.
Best Episode of the Season: “Shawn vs. The Red Phantom” (Episode 8)
2. Season Two
Interestingly enough, Season’s Two and Three have been the top two seasons for all three “Ranked” blogs I’ve written for TV series’ so far (Psych, Community, and The Office). This is primarily due to the fact that, as I mentioned earlier, shows tend to diminish in quality over time. And as I discussed in the previous selection, it can sometimes take a season or two for a show to truly understand its own characters. This is why I believe most shows, especially comedies, tend to hit their stride in the second and third seasons. Clearly, Psych is no exception. The second season of Psych launched the show into its best ever two-year stretch. Also, this was the season that proved this show had staying power and could successfully follow a strong first season. There is no shortage of classic episodes in Season Two. It came out of the gates incredibly strong with “American Duos,” which Tim Curry guest starred in, and never let up after that. Episodes like “Psy vs. Psy,” “And Down the Stretch Comes Murder,” “If You’re So Smart, Then Why Are You Dead?,” “Bounty Hunters!,” “Gus’ Dad May Have Killed an Old Guy,” “Lights, Camera… Homicidio,” and “Black and Tan: A Crime of Fashion” remain some of the most essential Psych episodes to this day. Furthermore, Season Two of Psych was the first time we started seeing notable guest stars pop up in the show. Aside from Curry in the opening episode of the season, some of the best Season Two guest stars were Lou Diamond Phillips, John Amos, Kevin Sorbo, Ernie Hudson and Phylicia Rashad. I’d argue that, despite the greatness of Season One, Season Two is where the Shawn and Gus friendship really establishes itself as the best part of the show as well. Evidently, the chemistry between James Roday and Dulé Hill had become incredibly strong by the time Season Two came around. Much like in the final season on my list, those two actors played off each other perfectly throughout all of Psych‘s second season.
Best Episode of the Season: “Lights, Camera… Homicidio” (Episode 13)
1. Season Three
Even though it was close between Season Two and Season Three for the number one spot, I feel confident in saying that there is no better Psych season than Season Three. From classic episodes, incredible guest stars, hilarious moments, and emotionally affecting storylines—this season has it all. Even more so than Season Two, this was the season in which it felt like Psych could do no wrong. Genuinely, I don’t think there is a single bad episode amongst the 16 that appear in Season Three. Moreover, there are more all-time episodes in this season than in any other. Episodes such as “Murder?… Anyone?… Anyone?… Bueller?,” “The Greatest Adventure In The History of Basic Cable,” “Disco Didn’t Die. It Was Murdered!”, “Christmas Joy,” “Any Given Friday Night at 10PM, 9PM Central,” “Tuesday the 17th,” and “An Evening with Mr. Yang” are not just great, they each have a case to be included in the top 10 or top 15 Psych episodes of all time. I want to focus on the season finale, “An Evening with Mr. Yang,” though because I think that episode is what definitively makes this season the show’s best. Although the first and second seasons of the show had somewhat entertaining finales, they didn’t feel that much more important than a regular episode of the series. “An Evening with Mr. Yang” was different though. Not only did this episode kick off the show’s most prominent story arc, but it felt like a huge step up for this series at the time. Even though this episode contains some very effective comedic moments, it proved that Psych could be much more than just a silly and fun detective show. It contained levels of heart, drama, tension, and intrigue that the show had never reached before. Quite simply, it is the greatest episode in the history of Psych. Honestly, I’m not sure Season Three beats Season Two for the number one spot without that episode. But thankfully I don’t have to worry about that, and I can remain confident in my decision to name Season Three the greatest season in the history of Psych.
Best Episode of the Season: “An Evening with Mr. Yang” (Episode 16)