Psych 2 is Good For What Ails You

Come on, son.

In the leadup to and immediate aftermath of the launch of Peacock, NBC Universal’s new streaming service, much of the press coverage focused either on the subscription tiers or on high-profile *Peak TV* originals like “Brave New World” and others. What blockbuster catalog movies were and weren’t included and when they would be removed from the lineup of offerings also accounted for substantial amounts of writeups.

That relatively narrow scope meant not much attention was paid to the real best reason to try out Peacock: Psych 2: Lassie Come Home.

If you’re not familiar with the premise of “Psych,” it’s pretty simple: Shawn (James Roday) is amazingly good at noticing and remembering details, a skill drilled into him by his police officer father Henry (Corbin Bernson). He uses that talent to pass himself off as a psychic and partners with his lifelong best friend Gus (Dule Hill) to become consultants to the Santa Barbara Police Department, often working with Detectives Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) and Juliet (Maggie Lawson).

Lassie Come Home is the second made-for-TV movie since the show went off the air after seven seasons in 2014. Like 2017’s Psych: The Movie, it catches up with the familiar characters and where they are professionally and personally, reuniting the team for a case that’s somehow tied to their past. In this case Shawn, Gus, Juliet and Chief Karen Vick (Kirsten Nelson) are out to investigate who shot Lassiter, leaving him severely wounded and with a foggy memory.

“Psych” has always shared more than a small amount of DNA with shows like “The Rockford Files,” with Shawn and Gus often bluffing themselves into situations they then had to fast-talk their way out of, and the latest movie is no exception to that. Just like in the show, Lassie Come Home has the pair taking unnecessary risks, sometimes motivated by a desire to see justice done or to help a friend and sometimes simply because Shawn wants to impress Juliet or Gus is trying to prove how tough he is to a girl he’s pursuing.

What’s wonderful about the Psych series to date is that it’s incredibly light-hearted, never stepping very far into deep pathology or psychosis the way other PI/detective procedurals sometimes do. The jokes are always fluffy and deserving of a chuckle, if not more. The relationships between the characters are clear and free of any massive continuity elements aside from the evolution of Shawn and Juliet’s romance. In that way it’s the perfect show for syndication, with no real long-running arc that gets in the way of watching whatever episode you like or whatever happens to be on while you’re unpacking in your hotel room.

That’s what makes it perfect for right now and why it deserved a bigger portion of the spotlight when it was announced as one of the launch day originals for Peacock. It’s not a show (or movie) that you will have to read 3,500-word explainers about, nor will you have to dissect all the Jungian principles that have been woven into the story by the creators. It is not dystopian or mind-bending and does not demand your attention by virtue of an all-star cast enlisted in the service of a cerebral adaptation of a best-selling novel.

Instead it’s a movie that will make you feel refreshed. It’s not mindless in the way some entertainment is, because you have to pay attention to catch all the rapid-fire one-liners and comebacks. Quite the opposite, it rewards careful viewing since the conclusions to the mysteries are almost always satisfying and consistent with the internal logic put in place by co-creator Steve Franks and others. More than anything, the cast uniformly delivers fun, breezy performances that make it obvious they’re having a good time on set and enjoying being reunited with the others, playing off each other with ease.

Peacock was never going to be a success or failure solely on how well Psych 2: Lassie Come Home delivered on the promise of the series or the 2017 movie. But the good news is that it *does,” in part because the model the creators have adopted means that these reunions/continuations every couple years come without the overwrought expectations and burdens of being a reunion or reboot. It only has to work on its own merits, not live up to the water-colored memories people might have from ~20 years ago.

Not only does the movie play just as funny and whimsical as the show almost always did, but it’s just as true with its feelings as well. Since the plot revolves around Det. Lassiter being shot, it naturally allows for Omundson, who suffered a stroke three years ago but has recovered to a great extent, to be involved and to serve as the emotional core of the story. Everyone is working the case because they owe Lassiter for all he’s done for them and don’t want to let him down while he’s sidelined. Still, he winds up being far from a passive observer to the action and his arc throughout the movie will make fans wonder why it’s getting so dusty in the room.

If you’ve already signed up to try out Peacock and see how it can fit into your streaming lifestyle, do yourself a favor and take two hours to watch Psych 2: Lassie Come Home. Even if you’re not a long-time fan and aren’t someone who watches closely for hidden pineapples, you’re likely to have a good time, one that won’t come with the need to go online and search for “what does X mean” in relation to every single plot point or development.

The Streaming Wars Are Being Fought on More Fronts Than Many People Think

Never fight a war on two fronts. Never get involved in a land war in Asia. These are solid, reliable maxims for those going into battle. You never want to find yourself overwhelmed and overstretched as you attempt to create supply lines to multiple locations and divert your attention.

The Streaming Wars feature dozens of fronts, all of which require the full attention of the various combatants. In the last few weeks, armaments and strategies of more parties became clear. Apple+ recently announced its pricing and original content lineup, Disney+ did likewise and NBCUniversal unveiled Peacock, coming soon and sporting a lineup of classic and new movies and shows. Netflix scored “Seinfeld” and Quibi unveils new shows every three hours.

If the battlefield is beginning to seem ridiculously crowded, you’re not alone.

As media commentator Mathew Ingram said,

Someone – possibly Ingram – pointed out that media was never really supposed to work like this, meaning a separate channel or platform for every media production company or distributor. NBC has always aired NBC programming (though that material used to be produced by a more diverse array of companies), but the television signal coming into your house wasn’t only delivering NBC shows.

Maybe this works better: If you wanted to buy DVDs of the shows you like, you didn’t have to go to the Fox store to get “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer,” the Warner Bros. store for “Friends” and the ABC store for “Lost.” You could get them all at Best Buy.

This Used To Be Their Playground

At various times many of these companies have run their own retail operations. The Warner Bros. Store was great counter-programming to The Disney Store. The Viacom Store never expanded beyond Chicago. All offered media and goods specific to that company, but that’s what was expected. And, importantly, you didn’t need to pay a cover charge just to get in the door.

The one time media did work like that was when studios owned movie theaters before the 1948 consent decree that such vertical integration was unfair and unlawful.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has said it will be a “whole new world” come November when both Apple+ and Disney+ are scheduled to launch, and there may indeed be a price-based shakeout in the landscape not too far in the offing as people decide how many of these are actually affordable. It’s going to be a bit sad if it comes down to who has the more attractive premiere classic sitcom to act as its differentiator.

For as exhaustive as the list above might be, what’s notable is that it’s actually incomplete. At the same time NBCUniversal and others were solidifying their strategies, Instagram announced a new Jonah Hill-produced documentary would be hosted on that platform. Facebook continues to expand its Watch programming with original series featuring big name talent. Twitter isn’t participating in this particular game at the moment, but it has a number of deals with media companies for news programming. Snapchat has found success with original material.

These social media companies aren’t implementing the same model as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ etc, but are competing for the same hours in people’s days. They want to be a go-to-destination for the significant number of hours people spend each day watching television and other video. And those social channels come with the advantage of not requiring paid access along with the fact the habit of checking them for updates, Stories and more is already baked into the audience.

The DTC Media World Won’t Last

Yes, these media companies are in many ways chasing the same direct-to-consumer model that has popped up in the last few years, one that’s evident to anyone who’s listened to more than eight minutes of any given podcast. But there’s a big difference between subscribing to a shaving accessory service and one that delivers original movies and shows. It’s fairly unlikely someone is going to subscribe to three shaving services, mostly because doing so would represent a significant and unnecessary overlap of features.

That’s going to hit streaming as well as people realize that one show they setup a trial account to check out isn’t worth the monthly fee given they don’t watch 75 percent of the other content available. If that sounds familiar, it’s just about the same reason given when people ditch their cable subscription.

I have to wonder how many of these companies are considering the sheer volume of competition they’re up against, including Instagram, Snapchat and more. Goodness knows that people in the audience know exactly how much time to spend on video and will make choices taking that into account, along with which shows/platforms have the attention of their peers.