There is a tradition—not vast, but rich—of fan-favorite shows being resurrected years after their would-be last bow, reuniting the original cast in a bid to recover whatever magic brought them success in the first place. Gilmore Girls took a nine-year hiatus before returning to Netflix with Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life; Veronica Mars saw a decade pass before Veronica Mars (The Movie) got Kickstarted to actual movie theaters. Arrested Development and Futurama both returned after seven long years in exile; Lisa Kudrow’s The Comeback, like Gilmore Girls, came back after nine. On the swifter end of the spectrum, cult sci-fi classic Firefly became Serenity after only three years; on the more languid end, cult sci-fi classic Doctor Who became Doctor Who (Millennial Remix) after a break of (more or less) sixteen. Columbo, for its dogged part, resurfaced again and again and again over the decades; were Peter Falk not to have died, we could probably expect another outing of the shambling master detective at any moment.
This week, television’s best fake psychic detective (don’t @ me, Mentalist stans) becomes a part of this tradition, as Psych: The Movie drops just over three years out from the series’ original finale.
In its serial form, Psych was a rare hour-long comedy that followed the misadventures of Santa Barbara’s Largest Adult Son, Shawn Spencer (James Roday), and his lifelong best friend, Burton Guster (Dulé Hill), as they ran a private detective agency based on the genuinely sharp investigative skills Shawn’s fake psychic shtick worked overtime to mask. It ran for eight seasons, and while its freshness waned some in its final years, the fact that it has now officially joined the ranks of the fan-resurrected is not a surprise: From its many catch phrases to its regular throwback pop culture cameos, its hidden pineapples to Gus’ endless list of ridiculous code names, Psych was almost custom-built for fervent fandom. Its title even comes ready-made for extreme fanonymity: Psych stans are, naturally, Psychos.
Roday, Hill, creator Steve Franks, and the rest of the series’ cast and production team are highly attuned to everything that made Psych both beloved and successful, and in their feature-length return to the small screen, they allow all of the show’s best elements to shine. Now stationed in San Francisco following Juliet’s (Maggie Lawson) and Chief Vick’s (Kirsten Nelson) Season Eight promotions, Shawn is still running his psychic detective sham, only this time with even more opaque branding: What was already a client-confounding psych in Santa Barbara has become, in the Gremlins-inspired storefront “eight feet underground at the end of an alley in Chinatown,” the even more opaque psychphrancisco—“one word, all lower-case, ph for the eff,” per Shawn’s exacting specifications. “It literally looks like a bunch of letters pushed together,” points out a frustrated Gus, who has already taken out another pharmaceutical rep day-job to pay Shawn’s rent. “Don’t be the comma in Earth, Wind and Fire,” Shawn says. “This is a glorious triumph!”
So the agency is back, as is the whipquick BFF banter between Shawn and Gus. In fact, minus Carleton Lassiter, who was unable to film following a stroke, everything Psychos love—the c’mon, sons; the self-indulgent rhetorical tangents in the middle of life-and-death situations against remarkably chatty villains; the enviable, ESP-level depth of friendship between Shawn and Gus; the grounded-but-stalled romance between Shawn and Juliet; the food; the fake beards; the demotion of Pluto; the intensely weird romances Gus gets sucked into; the importance of keeping bad guys off the streets; and the many, many, many surprise cameos—is here. “Do a little of this, even less of this, one of those,” as Shawn says, warming up to jump on the SFPB’s newest case uninvited. “The rest writes itself.”
It is, as the cast gushes about at length in one of the movie’s many teaser videos, like they never left.
The case at Psych: The Movie’s core, too, is classic Psych: dire, convoluted, a bit Christmas-y, and wrapped up in an unrealistically—but thrillingly—tight timeframe. Without giving too much away, it makes just the right number of callbacks to cases Shawn and Juliet worked back in the series’ original run, while simultaneously introducing new good guys (Sam Huntington as Juliet’s partner, Sam) and villains (Zachary Levi’s scenery-chewing Thin White Duke) with new motivations that Psychos won’t immediately be able to work out. There’s also a pivotal acoustic jam session featuring the Gin Blossoms, an ongoing B-plot centered on a gang of local jewel thieves fronted by a tatted-up fence who carries around his own tarot deck, a costumed last-minute assist from one of Santa Barbara’s finest, and an action-movie cliffhanger shootout featuring one last surprise cameo—Shawn’s specific brand of absurd bread-and-butter, in other words, with the promise of more to come.
The only disappointing aspect of Shawn Spencer’s return, really, is the fact that Psych, the series, isn’t available as part of any streaming package for fans to binge after being reminded just how fun the absurd chaos of Shawn’s world is. But as the existence of Psych: The Movie is proof of in the first place, Psychos are a force to be reckoned with: Make enough noise, and we may get Shawn, Gus, and the best fake psychic detective agency around back on streaming for good.
Psych: The Movie premieres tonight at 8 p.m. on USA.
Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic whose writing has appeared on Forever Young Adult, Screener, and Birth.Movies.Death. She’ll go ten rounds fighting for teens and intelligently executed genre fare to be taken seriously by pop culture. She can be found @AlexisKG.