During its eight seasons on air, Psych fed off the natural chemistry between stars James Roday and Dulé Hill to deliver not only one of TV's truly great bromances, but an infinitely watchable detective comedy that parodied everything from musicals to Twin Peaks. Now, in a perfectly-timed gift to the show's loyal fans, Shawn and Gus return Thursday for their first adventure in three years in Psych: The Movie (the first of what creator Steve Franks hopes is a number of feature-length TV movies). There are a number of reasons to tune in, but we'll give you just one: it's a perfect next chapter and everything a revival of a beloved series should be.
The two-hour TV movie picks up three years after the series finale found Shawn, Gus, Juliet (Maggie Lawson) and Vick (Kirsten Nelson) saying goodbye to Santa Barbara and relocating north to San Francisco. Written by Franks and Roday, Psych: The Movie pushes its character arcs forward just enough so that the narrative feels fresh but doesn't require Shawn's unique observational skills to understand what's happening. And of course it does this while still delivering all the things proud Psych-Os have been desperately waiting to see, including a plethora of pop culture references (the Psychphranciso office -- yes, that's what Shawn is calling it -- is straight out of Gremlins) and an appearance from Jimmi Simpson's dearly departed Mary Lightly. In essence, Psych: The Movie is exactly what it should be, which is just a two-hour episode of Psych.
Like the crowdfunded Veronica Mars film, Psych: The Movie was made with one goal in mind: to please the show's longtime fans. It more than succeeds. But unlike some of the other revivals that have sprung up since 2014, like NBC's Will & Grace, which purposefully confines itself to rather dated comedy, the Psych movie arrives at exactly the right time and with the right tone, both for fans and for the characters.
Three years has given fans time to properly miss Shawn's quips and Gus' love for Pluto, but it isn't so long that the script needed to waste time playing catch up just to find out what everyone has been doing. We might be able to chalk that up to Psych's formula and ongoing character arcs, which have always been relatively simple and fairly timeless, but it's just as likely that Psych is the TV show equivalent of the friend you haven't seen for years but with whom, upon reuniting, you're able to pick up immediately, as if no time has passed at all.
When viewers reunite with Shawn, he and Juliet are still engaged, which at least on paper is because Shawn is still on the hunt to find the engagement ring that was stolen in the series finale, but in actuality is because Shawn still suffers from the same commitment issues he's always had. Gus is still being willingly dragged into Shawn's adventures in crime solving -- this time a mystery assailant (Zachary Levi) is targeting Juliet -- and enabling Shawn all the same. It works because it's always worked, and again this is really more of a two-hour episode than self-contained movie.
The two-hour run time allows the various narrative threads time to breathe and expand from the traditional hour format, but it isn't too long that the pacing feels off, like, say, during last year's Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix. The film's holiday setting also wraps viewers in a comforting embrace without bordering on schmaltzy Hallmark territory (though maybe the show makes a gentle jab at Lawson's own Hallmark movie). As the story builds, as the nicknames come out, as the familiar faces of Henry (Corbin Bernsen) and former Santa Barbara coroner Woody Strode (Kurt Fuller) return, everything falls into place, reminding us that Psych in any format is relentlessly and often deliriously funny. In fact, the only time the atmosphere of the movie seems to shift is when the interference of unfortunate real world events have to be addressed.
As most fans know, Timothy Omundson, who plays current Santa Barbara Chief of Police Carlton Lassiter, suffered a stroke just prior to the beginning of filming. This triggered script rewrites, since he was originally meant to play a much larger role in the narrative. Still, Omundson's sole scene, which actually fits into the narrative fairly well because of the film's San Francisco setting, is well done and incredibly emotional. Psych fans will be happy to see their beloved Lassie and know that he and Omundson are doing well, but there is no denying that the scene also serves as a reminder that there's a major piece of the Psych puzzle missing for most of the film.
Despite this, Psych: The Movie still manages to deliver an immensely satisfying, feel-good Psych adventure reminiscent of the show's very best episodes right when viewers might need it most. By leaning on the bromance that fueled the show for eight laugh-out-loud seasons, Psych: The Movie proves there's still life left in Shawn and Gus' psychic detective agency, if USA Network should want to continue on with Frank's plans (and it should). It also highlights that it's entirely possible to deliver a damn good time in a limited revival format. But perhaps most importantly, it just reinforces the idea that if something isn't broke, don't fix it. And Psych is definitely working just fine.
Psych: The Movie airs Thursday, Dec. 7 at 8/7c on USA Network.