July 5, 2006

TV Previews: Monk and Psych, the New USA Friday Night Lineup

This Friday night, USA premieres its new night of quirky characters. Monk moves into the 9pm slot, vacating its usual 10pm start in favor of the debuting series, Psych. They make a good pair. On one hand you have an obsessive/compulsive detective who is very good at what he does, and on the other is a smart aleck who has very keen powers of observation, and an ability to spin any given situation, who convinces the police that he is psychic. Sounds like a good one two punch to me.

Monk never seems to lose steam, it just keeps going and going, delivering some great television. This season doesn't look like it's going to change that trend. Even after one of the original leads, Bitty Schram, left the show and Traylor Howard joined the cast, the show never skipped a beat. That is quite a feat, too, considering how popular Schram was. But I am sure you aren't here for that.

I have to walk a fine line here, as I don't want to give away what happens in "Mr. Monk and the Actor," but at the same time, I need to entice you to want to watch an episode that is well worth your time. The basic thrust of the episode has a movie producer that wants to make a big screen Monk adventure. The actor cast to play Monk is played in the show by Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada). It may be a touch of stunt casting, but they couldn't have chosen a better actor to show method acting gone awry. The interaction between Shalhoub and Tucci is fantastic, especially a touching conversation later in the episode. Don't fret, there is a murder mystery to solve as well, focusing on another guest star, Greg Grunberg (Alias).

The entire episode is a lot of fun. There is the comedic interation between Shalhoub and Tucci is magical. Watching Tucci try to mimic Monk's mannerisms, while Monk tries to play down his germophobia is great. Howard's Natalie is always there to lend a hand, at times being more observant than our defective detective. Not to be left out, Stottlemeyer and Disher (Ted Levine and Jason Gray-Stanford) are always ready for a quip. This was a good start to a new season, so don't forget to give it shot. Oh yeah, there is one more cameo, Peter Weller is cast in the in episode movie as Stottlemeyer.

Following Monk is the premiere of Psych. This show follows the premise that someone with excellent observational skills and a quick wit can convince people that he is psychic. Add another layer of irony, his PI business is called Psych, get it? The early commercials make it look like it could be fun. The question is whether the commercials spent the funny leaving an unfunny husk.

The show starts off with some promise, giving us a glimpse of a young Shawn Spencer being tested by his father in a diner in order to win a piece of cake for dessert. Then using those powers of observation and wit, Shawn talks his way out of handcuffs and into a job with the police. Now, all he has to do is keep up the facade of being a psychic while working on an important kidnapping case.

I really enjoyed the off-beat humor and overall quirkiness of the show. It seemed to thrive on being a little weird without trying to hard, it never veers to far into campiness. It is fun, and I am really looking forward to seeing where it goes.

The cast is headed up by James Roday as Shawn Spencer, and Dule Hill as his partner, Gus. They make a good duo, with Hill being the straight man to Roday's schemer. Corbin Bernsen plays Shawn's ex-cop father, and Don S. Davis (Stargate SG-1) guest stars. Rounding out the cast are Maggie Lawson and Timothy Omundson as the police detectives who aren't quite buying everything Shawn claims to be, and Kirsten Nelson as the equally skeptical police chief.

It looks like USA has found a nice Friday night duo. Both shows have a nice blend of comedy and drama, with each led by a strong personality. This is definitely a couple of shows that could tempt me to tune in the tube on a Friday night.


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