Saturday, February 21, 2009
I admire the USA network's commitment to character-based scripted dramas. It's nice to see a network employ talented writers and actors instead of farming out their programming to unemployable 26-year-olds whose career goals consist wholly of "appear on television."
That being said, the only two USA shows I ever watch are Monk and Psych. Burn Notice seems like it might be cool but I never catch it, and I'm a big fan of Mary McCormack from her days as Kate Harper on the West Wing, but I've never caught that show and actually can't remember the name of it at the moment. (Google is my friend: In Plain Sight.) Even Monk and Psych are more in the "if I happen to catch a rerun on Saturday afternoon" category, especially since they air in the Friday night death slots (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_slot). Don't laugh, even someone as lame as I am at least occasionally has something better to do on a Friday night.
However, promos earlier in the week intrigued me, and so when no social plans materialized I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to catch these two programs.
Monk is going the way of all mystery shows, they are running out of ways to have Monk solve a mystery, and so most of the solutions now are fairly simplistic and overly reliant on love affairs gone wrong. The things Monk notices, supposedly because he is freakishly talented, are so commonplace that it makes you seriously question the efficacy of the San Francisco police.
The show tries to make up for this by putting Monk in more and more awkward situations (not too hard considering his character) and also, like tonight's episode, leaning on the crutch of his sympathetic story. I actually like when they focus on Trudy, his murdered wife, because I keep hoping that Monk will eventually solve the case. Unfortunately, there were no revelations about the murder, it just served as a haphazard backdrop for this episode's crime.
The parking garage where Trudy was killed is about to be demolished, and a sympathetic city councilman who wants to help Monk turns up dead. However, this turns out to be a coincidence. More disturbingly, the show seems to be laying the groundwork for Monk accepting that he will never solve his wife's case, which would be an unsatisfying end to the series. (The next season will be the last.) If they are considering this tack, I hope they reconsider. Monk isn't the same show it once was, and it's fans deserve some closure for sticking around.
Psych, on the other hand, seems to be hitting a creative stride. After missing most of this season I saw the last two episodes and both were very good, with tonight's finale being a legitimately great hour of television.
A legendary serial killer who enjoys a challenge has decided that Shawn is a worthy adversary. Using the identity of Yin Yang the killer kidnaps a waitress and challenges Shawn and the gang to find her before time runs out, providing them with clues and cryptic directions.
The episode was full of twists and turns and provided a nice look at Shawn's character. He remains his usual goofball self at first, because he says he needs to be that way to do what he does, but his shell is cracked as the killer's game becomes more personal. The episode is lighter on the humor than usual (although Gus trying to pick up the comedic slack and failing was hilarious) but the writing was terrific. I'm upset that I only caught on to this season of Psych as it was coming to a close, but I'll be sure to pick it back up in the summer. I recommend you do so as well.