Photo: USA

Juliet Is The Sun

So why does the show need a near-duplicate of Maggie Lawson's Juliet O'Hara in Mira Sorvino's Betsy Brannigan?

I'm a huge Psych fan -- so much so that there's probably nothing they could throw at me that would make me not watch the show. I love Psych to death.

I love Psych so much I sleep with it. I love Psych so much that someone I know only through Twitter (hi, Jeff!) told James Roday that I was Psych's biggest fan. I love Psych so much, I am now Jeff Drake's biggest fan for telling James Roday that I am Psych's biggest fan.

That's where I'm coming from when I tell you that the news of Mira Sorvino's multi-episode arc leaves me feeling...well, very little, actually.

From USA's press release:

Sorvino will play the Santa Barbara Police Department's newest head detective, Betsy Brannigan -- an incredibly sweet, adorably reserved and yet certified badass. Brannigan's record for taking down ruthless criminals is rivaled only by her skills in sparkly craft making, and her seemingly bubbly demeanor can turn on a dime once she straps in the dual-wielded Colt .45s. She's a scrapbooking, cat loving, crime-fighting machine.

It's not that I object to Sorvino as an actress. In fact, I like Sorvino, and I think she'll probably bring more life to her role than Rachael Leigh Cook did as Shawn's thankfully temporary and blessedly Uganda-bound girlfriend. It's more that I'm thinking, "Okay, but don't we have this character already? And isn't that character named, you know, Juliet O'Hara?" A mainstay on the Psych cast since the second episode of the first season, Juliet O'Hara (Maggie Lawson) is also an "incredibly sweet" "certified badass" who loves cats and fights crime.

Examples of Juliet being "incredibly sweet":

  • When she tried so hard and earnestly to make friends with the newest female detective on the force by chit-chatting with her and giving her a welcome cupcake that she eventually got slapped with a sexual-harassment complaint.
  • When she wanted to organize a surprise birthday party for Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) and accidentally invited all the criminals he had arrested in the past.

Examples of Juliet being a "certified badass":

  • When she sat down that bratty teen who had been giving Lassiter hell all day and scared the crap out of him just by talking to him.
  • When she kicks ass as an undercover Derby Girl.
  • When she kicks a different kind of ass as an undercover sorority girl.

Examples of Juliet being a cat lover:

  • When Shawn (Roday) "reads" her at their first meeting and correctly assesses that she has two cats.
  • When Shawn gives her a cat toy for Christmas and says, "Mr. Mittens says it felt just like going to sleep. He doesn't hold it against you at all. Kitty heaven? It's just like East Beach." Juliet gets all teary and tells him that's "the best news ever."

Examples of Juliet fighting crime:

  • Every episode

I could go on and on, because: big fan, but you get the point.

To be completely fair, I don't recall that Juliet is particularly crafty in an obsessive Sandra Lee table-scape sort of way, but in "Gus' Dad May Have Killed an Old Guy," she helps her three nephews make complicated-looking manger scenes out of construction paper and tells Lassiter that helping the boys with their Christmas crafts "is [her] favorite part." So, yeah.

I'm also casting a eye so jaundiced it needs its own biliblanket over the idea that Sorvino's character is a new "head detective." If more Head Detective Brannigan means less Head Detective Lassiter, I'm going to have some very strong feelings about that. None of them happy.

Finally, Sorvino's character's name, Betsy Brannigan, rolls off the tongue like a superhero's girlfriend (Vicki Vale, Lois Lane, Lana Lang, etc.), which could prove to be the final strip of metallic rickrack on a character that sounds just a tad too crusted over with cute for me. (I want to note that no self-respecting cat lover can truly scrapbook or craft and stay sane, because the end results will always have wads of cat fur sprouting out of the glitter glue and puffy paints like enormous multi-colored moles.)

All that said, the Psych writers usually know how to use the talents of their guest stars to their fullest advantage. Who could predict that John Cena would prove to be such an awesome addition as Juliet's mysterious brother? Or that Lou Diamond Phillips would rise from the ashes of Wolf Lake with his hilarious portrayal of a cocky g-man?

Looking at her IMDB rap sheet, where the only thing I recognize her doing in the ten years since she appeared on Will and Grace is Reservation Road and a one-off on House M.D., I'd say Sorvino is due for some sort of comeback. Maybe Psych can juice her career the same way Nero Wolfe did for Timothy Hutton. And while I don't know if I see her as the cutesy, crafty, cat-lovin', crime-fightin' Betsy Brannigan, Sorvino did win that Academy Award for Mighty Aphrodite, so maybe she'll end up pulling more out of her ass than a clone of Juliet and a $300 receipt for gingham-covered buttons from Jo-Ann Fabrics.

Being the huge Psych fan that I am, I will cautiously look forward to what everyone -- writers, current cast, and Sorvino -- does with this character. If only because the writers are smart and their jokes are deep cuts, so a lot of fun can be had from the predicted intertextuality alone.

(Just as long as the cutesy crafting is used specifically to drive Lassiter up the wall. LIKE BEDAZZLING HIS BADGE!)

For Emmy Nomination Week we ask:

What's your favorite Maggie Lawson role?

  • Juliet O'Hara
  • Todd Mulcahy's fiancee Rebecca on Felicity
  • Alexa on Party of Five
  • Nancy Drew!
  • Lacey in Hostile Makeover (we don't know either, but now we want to watch it)