Psych‘s eighth season premiered hot off the heels of the musical episode. While I didn’t think that the musical genre was the show’s forte, the guys return to their usual selves in a so-so season premiere placing them as globetrotting crime fighters. That’s right, Shawn and Gus take on jolly old England in this installment but fail to really capitalize on the fish out of water concept. I was a little bummed that the guys were gallivanting across Europe when they could have been at home in Santa Barbara with all of the supporting cast. Psych works best when it is not trying to reinvent the proverbial wheel with gimmicks. And yes, that includes the locale of the show and all of the regular players. Instead we are forced to deal with a “getaway episode” where Shawn and Gus do not have the supporting cast to fall back on. It’s not that they can’t handle it, it just isn’t necessary to get laughs or earn more credibility.
When Shawn and Gus receive the call to assist on an Interpol investigation the guys spring into action across the pond in England. With Shawn narrating in his best cockney accent, we discover that it is none other than Pierre Despereaux that has infiltrated the crime stopping organization. Under the guise of Roylston Cornwallace Staley, Despereaux is his usual smooth self trying to work what appears to be a long con with some well placed English criminals. However, the reason that Shawn and Gus are there is a little muddled making you wonder just what exactly they are doing there. Shawn is his usual schoolgirl self when around Despereaux and I normally love the episodes where he is featured. But this time around is the weakest effort to date with Pierre trying to compensate for a weak and boring plot.
Former footballer Vinny Jones plays the gangster Ronnie Ives with aplomb but all I kept thinking was “where’s the body?” as there was no murder to launch the episode into its usual whodunnit format. One of the things that immediately hit me was that maybe the show has run its course. Don’t get me wrong I am praying that this season isn’t the end, but with a number of sub-par episodes from last season and the overcooked musical episode, I am definitely worried about the shows future. I did like that Despereaux returned even if I wasn’t 100% sure what his role in the plot was. They have established a good rapport over the years and you can almost forgive the confusion when Shawn and Pierre hilariously try and get to the bottom of the case.
Gus steals the show dressed as a student of Hogwarts in full Gryffindor attire. All he cares about is going to the “Pottercon” convention and he will do anything he can to expedite the case so that he can get to the magical event. Seeing Gus run around with a wand is a testament to the goofy “I don’t want to grow up” attitude that Shawn and Gus have cultivated over the years. There are a lot of zingers and one-liners that keep the otherwise regular episode above water. My main gripe is that I was just not sure what the heck the guys were doing in England and why I should invest my time. Setting up an episode of PSYCH with a murder frames each installment but the lack of a cohesive narrative in this particular episode does not serve the series well. It was basically just the guys overseas in a confusing and convoluted plot that never quite gets off the ground.
Lassie is back in Santa Barbara and back in a regular police uniform which makes me wonder if I missed something from last season’s finale. And Jules is not even in the episode presumably because actress Maggie Lawson is working double duty between Psych and ABC’s Back in the Game. The glaring absences of the supporting cast definitely hurts the show. Cary Elwes plays Despereaux with his usual vigor and the character could easily have a spinoff at this point. He is perfect for the role and manages to make the character very interesting even after all these years. I guess my main complaint is that things are not the same and if there was a time that the guys needed to stay in Santa Barbara it is now. There is a new chief and new rules and I would have loved to see Shawn and Gus deal with that on their home turf.
Overall it was not the greatest season premiere but even an OK episode of Psych is better than most programming. I think that they can capitalize on the momentum of this and the musical episode despite my reservations about the latter. New viewers seem to be finding Psych for the first time and it continues to cement its reputation as a “cult” comedy. Devotees to the pineapple like myself are praying that this is not the last season. There are definitely still stories to be told on Psych but they need to come back down to earth. Gimmick episodes can only go so far and I hope that the rest of the season is back in good old Santa Barbara.