The USA Network mystery-comedy series Monk and Psych are both entering the season’s stretch run, with their penultimate episodes appearing tonight beginning at 9 EST. The season finales will premiere next week.
Monk remains superb and inventive, and Psych has become a sold, entertaining mystery comedy program with real, enjoyably challenging puzzles.
In my earlier comments on Psych on this site, I observed that the show was trying too hard to be quirky, and I pointed out that "the best thing about a mystery is the mystery." It seems that the producers discovered this timeless truth in the course of the season. The final episode of the first half of the season, which premiered last August, included a solid mystery and incorporated the central characters’ eccentricities into the story, instead of trying to do it the other way round (which never works). (See my review here.) The producers have continued this approach in the second half of the season.
It is important, however, to acknowledge that the best mystery stories don’t just have interesting puzzles, characters, conflicts, and social implications. They also have very interesting detectives.
Xavier Lechard, a French mystery aficionado, astutely observed that "the most famous and enduring detectives tend to be also the most colorful." (His comment appeared on the Golden Age of Detection email discussion list.)
It’s not enough for the ‘tec to be colorful, of course, but without such a character at the center of the story, even the most intellectually challenging mystery can become something of a bore.
What makes Monk and Psych work so well is that they have both interesting detectives and good mysteries.
I agree, Hunter. It appears to me that the writers have to work harder to keep the fake-psychic thing going than on the mystery puzzles, which are solid and appear relatively effortless. That aspect seems very strong and central, and then the fake-psychic and goofy-guy stuff is laid on top of it like frosting.
I guess this means that the gimmick aspect is rather labored.
But, hey, I can live with it, because the mysteries are good.
I agree with you about Psych. I think it has improved. I still haven’t recovered my former ardor for Monk, but I saw an episode recently that stoked the fires a bit.
What you say about the mystery being most important is striking. As I watch Psych, I’m convinced I would like it just as much even if he weren’t doing the psychic schtick. To me, it’s like an add-on that the writers have to deal with. The show could probably be as effective with the main character being a private detective from a long line of cops who happens to be quirky and has special abilities that set him apart.
He doesn’t need to be a psychic at all.
I hadn’t heard about it until now. Just looked it up on imdb, and it looks very promising. Simon Pegg has been in some very funny stuff, and this one sounds like it could have a lot of laughs. Thanks for the lead.
Speaking of quirky mysteries, I was wondering if you had seen the previews for a new movie called “Hot Fuzz”. It looks quite entertaining and the preview makes it appear to have a heavy emphasis on the mystery aspects.
Comments are closed.