USA Network’s ‘Psych’ strikes new notes with musical
The "musical" initially started out as the brainchild of show creator Steve Franks not long after the "comedy-drama" first aired in 2006. Now, as the current longest running original show on USA network, Psych’s musical finally came to fruition this past Sunday Dec. 15. However, it’s something quite unlike other special musical episodes of television shows, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s. Originally, the show’s two-hour musical was to fit into the season seven story arc before USA Network changed its air date. Fans of the show will notice discrepancies in the story line, so much so that creator Franks joked to Zap2It blog that, “You could make a drinking game, [on] some sort of [the] inaccuracy within the story line.”
However, for those who have never seen the series, Franks still believes it’s an appropriate way to first get acquainted with the show, which follows a fake psychic detective and his pharmaceutical selling sidekick.
“I designed everything I wrote in this episode, every character in a song or dialogue, every character is introduced as if this is the first time. If you never watched an episode of Psych, this is the perfect one to get introduced,” he told the Zap2It blog.
Despite the misplacement of the episode, the show’s characters all busted out their singing chops for the highly marketed musical. Actor Dule Hill (West Wing) is the only member of the principle cast with any Broadway experience (he’s currently starring on Broadway in the musical After Midnight), but within the show’s purposes, the singing is to be taken for what it is. The episode also includes singing by guest stars Ally Sheedy (The Breakfast Club), who's reprising her role on the show as a serial killer, and Anthony Rapp (from Broadway’s Rent).
The story line is fit within the musical, opening with the Psych Detective Agency (leading characters Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and Burton Guster (Dule Hill) in an over-the-top choreographed number dancing and singing throughout the boardwalk and pier of Santa Barbara in “Santa Barbara Skies,” one of the 14 original songs crafted by Franks specifically for the musical.
The rest of the story continues with the typical comedy-drama Psych procedural. Viewers are introduced to a possible playwright psychopath, Z (guest star Anthony Rapp), who goes on a rampage when his invention (a musical called “Ripper” based on Jack the Ripper) is revived when he’s held in a mental institution. The authorities and the Psych Detective Agency are left to decipher if this is actually the case (it never is), and the actual culprit if Z isn’t to blame.
In between attempting to solve and prevent more murders as a result, songs are strategically placed within the two-hour special. This includes a particularly bromantic duet (“I’ve Heard it Both Ways”) by character frenemies Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and Head Detective Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) in a particularly strong vocal number.
By time the last song is performed (“Jamaican Inspector”) and the two-hour special draws to a close, it’s hard to imagine why a show would dedicate the time and resources to something that seems so ridiculous, and at times painfully cheesy.
The lyrics of the musical seem nonsensical at times, and the singing is far from what you’d find on the Great White Way (even with guest star Anthony Rapp in an underwritten role), yet that’s the point. Even though the cast isn’t of the Broadway-caliber, their voices are still bearable enough to get you through the fourteen numbers, even after the initial shock of the ridiculousness wears off.
Steve Franks and the rest of the cast intended to have fun with the musical that fulfilled a long-term dream of the show. Roday, in particular, told The Hollywood Reporter that he and co-star Dule Hill debated on how to sing, whether they wanted stretch themselves as vocally a or attempt to stay more in character. The end result was the two wanted to “sound like what Shawn and Gus would sound like if they spontaneously burst into song.”
The show has a reputation for not taking themselves too seriously, which is much of the same formula they took into the musical. “I think as long as we didn’t completely humiliate ourselves and it is funny and it is in the tone of what we do, we’d have a fighting chance of pulling it [the musical] off,” Roday told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview. “The entire thing is basically a Psych-out,” he added, referring to the show’s name for the bloopers that often include the cast breaking out in song. “It’s the most epic Psych-out of all time.”
After seven seasons, they've accomplished their goal.
'Psych: The Musical' is available for purchase on iTunes. The show’s eighth season premieres January 8, 2014 on USA Network.