Photo: Alan Zenuk / USA

Shawn And The Amazing Technicolor DreamGus

Psych's musical isn't going to Broadway, but that's not why Stephanie's watching.

Psych isn't and has never been in the business of producing high art on USA. It's not trying to be Breaking Bad or The Wire or even — along the lines of complex comedic art — Arrested Development. This is not to say that Psych isn't nuanced, thoughtful, well-written, or an overall high-quality show, because it is, but its genius is not found in any of those things. In truth, devoted Psych watchers know that the show's genius lies in how everyone involved — cast, crew, viewers — is in the business of having fun. And that's exactly what the Psych musical is: it's fun. A lot of fun.

Not being a Gleek, the only other musical television episode I can compare "Psych: The Musical" to is Buffy The Vampire Slayer's "Once More With Feeling." The Psych musical — and I'm clamping on noise-canceling headphones as I say this and the entire Whedonverse explodes in indignation — is better than the Buffy musical. While "Once More With Feeling" does manage to poke fun at itself with certain numbers (like "I GOT THE MUSTARD OUT!"), it also has a self-conscious earnestness that makes certain aspects uncomfortable to watch. (Whenever I rewatch, I have to fast-forward through Spike's "Let Me Rest In Peace," anything with Dawn, and Buffy slide-whistling the "HEA-AH-VEN" revelation.) By comparison, Psych as a series is almost never earnest, and any self-consciousness it might be said to have is self-conscious silliness. Because it doesn't take itself too seriously, Psych is one of those rare shows that it is an utter delight to watch, and the two-hour musical episode is no exception.

Barely four minutes into the episode, Dulé Hill — no stranger to dancing — showcases the first of his many sweet Broadway moves, and James Roday busts out a hammy singing voice which is exactly the kind of over-the-top vocalizing you'd expect from his character. Along with the usual silly hijinks Psych fans have come to expect in every episode, like Woody the Coroner singing a ballad with a serial killer and Corbin Bernsen refusing point-blank to have anything to do with singing, there are quite a few musical theatre references so subtle that only musical theatre geeks will pick up on them. Additionally, Tony Award winner Barry Bostwick appears in a non-singing role, and Anthony Rapp of Rent plays the murderous playwright around whom the musical's plot revolves.

"Anthony Rapp aside," you might ask, "are the performances in 'Psych: The Musical' pitch-perfect, with the entire cast suddenly exhibiting golden throats and dancing like Bebe Neuwirth?" God, no: if that's what Psych delivered in its musical episode, it wouldn't be Psych. (Though it must be said that Kirsten Nelson does have an impressive set of pipes.) What you get when you watch "Psych: The Musical" isn't a Broadway — or even off-Broadway — event; it is, however, a perfect example of Psych enjoying Psych, and whenever that happens, the viewers — and especially the hardcore fans — are in for a good time.

That said — and I'm saying this as a huge Psych fan — I'd be fairly surprised if this particular episode brought in hordes of new converts to the Psych cult; as a standalone event, it just doesn't have that kind of power. Psych is not the first show to have a musical episode, and "Psych: The Musical" isn't even the best iteration of a musical episode, but that's not why you should watch it.

You should watch it because Lassiter and Shawn perform a recurring duet based on one of Shawn's favorite expressions, "I've Heard it Both Ways," and because Gus still manages to crack me up with his patented pickup line, "Did you hear about Pluto? That's messed up, right?"

You should watch it because Ally Sheedy's nutjob serial killer won't give Shawn tips on his case unless he and Gus perform original routines for her over Skype, and because the line, "Z could really turn a phrase — it's like The Notebook" was actually thought of, scripted, and delivered with sincerity.

You should watch it because Gus is auditioning for something called "Shakespeare In The Parking Lot," and because, at the end of this special, you really, really want there to be a Jack The Ripper musical with Dulé Hill playing a black tap-dancing London detective with a bad Jamaican accent.

Lest you think this is the first time Psych has dabbled in music: here's a list of the show's delightful musical moments that came long before this one.

  • "Ebony and Ivory" in the S3 promo
  • Gus and Shawn performing an atrocious rendition of A-ha's "Take On Me." ("American Duos" S02E01)
  • Opening credits done Bollywood-style ("Bollywood Homicide" S04.E06)
  • Gus showing what foine tap-dancing skills Dulé Hill brings to the table. ("Feet Don't Kill Me Now" S05.E02)
  • Gus and Shawn performing Tears For Fears's "Shout," with Shawn in a trench coat and Gus moonwalking in a red leather Michael Jackson suit. ("American Duos" S02.E01)
  • Gus performing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" with his a cappella group, Blackapella. ("High Top Fade Out" S04.E07)
  • Opening credits performed by Boyz II Men ("High Top Fade Out" S04.E07)
  • "Private Eyes" in the S4 promo
  • "Don't You (Forget About Me)" in the S6 promo

"Psych: The Musical" is not an award-winning moment in television musical history, it's simply Psych being Psych. With music. And that makes it a great moment in television, full stop. You should watch it!

Psych's musical episode airs Sunday at 9 PM ET on USA.

For Game Show Week we list:

Things that would almost certainly happen if Shawn and Gus were ever to be Bobby Flay's sous chefs on Iron Chef America!

  • Shawn tries to correct Alton Brown's pronunciation of "turmeric," insisting he's heard it both ways
  • Gus wastes valuable minutes using the Super Smeller to determine what a dish needs, rather than following Flay's directions
  • Shawn is found in the walk-in drinking heavy cream straight from the carton
  • Gus tries to pick up a judge with the line "Did you hear about foie gras? That's messed up, right?"
  • Shawn spits on a dish and passes it off as a molecular gastronomy dish he calls "Magic Head Foam"
  • Gus gets an order of Jamaican jerk chicken delivered to Kitchen Stadium
  • The secret ingredient is pineapple