In this age of streaming services aplenty, I’m surprised more production companies haven’t tried their hands at the TV movie special. Once a way to generate buzz around cast reunions of a long-dead series (or as a means of promotion for newer shows), we simply don’t see specials like that anymore. When someone can binge-watch an entire series in a manner of days at any given moment, what purpose does a 90-minute reunion special serve?
That didn’t stop Psych creator Steve Franks and actor James Roday from creating Psych: The Movie back in 2017. A kind of fan-service laden excuse to get the gang back together, Psych: The Movie wasn’t exactly what I’d call quality entertainment. It still had the breezy charm and solid production values of its predecessor series, but its incoherent plot felt like an attempt to cram in as many celebrity guests as possible.
In the lead up to Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, I ultimately feared this second attempt would suffer a similar fate. With the special being held hostage behind NBC’s Peacock — a brand new, untested subscription service — was the continuation of Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster’s journey going to land with all the grace of a drunken frat boy?
Somehow, Franks and co have pulled through on this one. Psych 2 is more in tune with the original series making it immediately better than its predecessor and a welcomed return of the pineapple loving duo.
Psych 2: Lassie Come Home
Director: Steve Franks
Release Date: July 15, 2020 (Peacock)
The intro to Psych 2 is far darker than I had expected. In a mysterious case that detective Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) is undertaking, he gets shot six times by an unknown assailant and is left for dead. Starting to hallucinate from the treatment he is undergoing, he calls upon former colleagues Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and Burton Guster (Dule Hill) to help him locate his shooter and bring the man to justice. Along with revenge, Lassiter also wants the boys to investigate some “supernatural” occurrences that have been happening at the Herschel House Recovery Clinic, the hospice where he is staying.
If you know anything about Psych, you’re likely aware that the series was in love with the films of Alfred Hitchcock. An entire episode was dedicated to the man and his penchant for turning the mundane into the spooky. A lot of that charm is channeled here, though not as explicitly as in said episode. Describing too much will give away the twist, but the general narrative thread here is pretty predictable for anyone that has watched the series.
That would normally be a problem, but what Psych 2: Lassie Comes Home does so much better than its predecessor is nail the tone of the original series. Without needing to put on a welcome back tour, Psych 2 is able to jump straight into the old routine and keep the characters bantering with each other in a more realistic and consistent manner. No one is making meta-references or fawning over how long they haven’t seen each other: this feels like another episode of the series that happens to be 90 minutes long.
The switch to Peacock has given the writers (both Franks and Roday) a chance to get a little raunchier, but you’ll otherwise find the same type of humor that defined this series for its fan base. Shawn and Gus rip on each other at every opportunity they get. Jules (Maggie Lawson) remains the strong-willed, cool-headed force in her and Shawn’s relationship. Lassiter is even as sharp-witted as ever, just with a disability that keeps him from direct action.
This part is where knowing the personal lives of the actors will help out a bit. Psych fans are well aware of this, but Omundson suffered a pretty severe stroke in 2017 that ended up keeping him from returning for Psych: The Movie. He ultimately had a short cameo, but a lot was done to disguise the fact that the actor had lost the ability to walk.
Over the course of the three years between productions, Omundson has regained a lot of his mobility and was able to fully participate this time. Still not 100% recovered, the plot was actually written to take his injury into consideration and it feels like a natural extension of the Lassiter character. It’s completely in the realm of possibility that a police chief would get shot on the job and lose mobility from his injuries.
About the only thing that is disappointing here is that Lassiter still doesn’t play that big of a role. He’s in roughly 20 minutes of the film and his beats are spaced out a bit too far. After being featured heavily in the beginning, Lassiter gets shifted aside for almost the entirety of the second act. With a hook that is supposed to be about him, it feels a little weird that Lassiter is in less than a third of the overall film.
Despite that, I couldn’t help but smile at how much more fun and light-hearted this adventure was than the last go around. Predictability aside (I called the twist within the first 15 minutes and was about 90% correct), everyone does great work here. You’ll need to have seen the first movie to understand who some of the characters are, but no one hogs the screen for an inordinate amount of time, and since everything is on Peacock that isn’t too hard. As I said, without having to feature a bazillion guest stars and famous actors, Psych 2 is better able to capitalize on what made the original series work.
What ultimately sucks some of the momentum out of the affair is the longer run-time, however. Having to accommodate what amounts to roughly one and a half episodes, there are lulls in the middle that feel like they are mere filler. There’s a pregnancy scare thrown in and Shawn starts hallucinating about being a father. This segues into a cameo from Mary (Jimmi Simpson) that is somehow worse than his appearance in the last movie. It’s almost like the writing is trying too hard to be funny at times.
I’m also confused about what Woody (Kurt Fuller) is really doing here. He’s about the only part of the film where one could say, “This is simply because Woody was in the series.” He does contribute to the plot, but only very briefly and without much presence. At least Fuller gets one really good joke in and I can take a few failed attempts at laughter since they aren’t offensive in any manner.
Even with those shortcomings, I can’t say too much negatively against Psych 2: Lassie Come Home. Maybe I got more of a thrill out of it because of how lackluster the first TV movie was, but everything here feels like the cast and crew haven’t missed a beat since the series ended in 2014. It’s also a bizarre coincidence how the return of Omundson has resulted in a movie that better resembles the original series’ run.
I’m not sure if I would say Psych 2 is worth signing up for Peacock to watch, but anyone that enjoyed the series is sure to have a blast. With Franks stating intentions to create something of a Psych movie saga, the success of this second film may result in even more psychic goodness. That’s something worth cutting a pineapple open over.