Psych: brilliant buddy comedy, or highly self-aware precursor to The Mentalist? For several years, I dismissed psych as lame basic cable buddy-cop fare, but it's actually clever and very funny. I caught up on previous seasons via Netflix and now currently watch new episodes as they air on USA Network.
Shawn Spencer is a not-actually-psychic liaison for the Santa Barbara police department (he's just highly observant rather than psychic). He's a bit of a jerk with an inflated ego, but his buddy Gus, a pharmaceutical salesman and business partner of their psych offices, plays straight man to Shawn's man-child shenanigans. Gus is actually my favorite. He's straight-laced, but just as prone to engaging Shawn's weirdness; spontaneous bursts of dance, elaborate fist bumps and general spastic reactions. This season the show brought back the recurring joke that Gus is Bud from The Cosby Show (he isn't, but his TV mom is played Claire Huxtable! Or rather, Phylicia Rashad.)
Shawn and Gus are usually at odds with Detective Lassiter, who looks like a cross between Matthew Perry and Mr. Bean.
Shawn and Juliet, another detective, have romantic tension throughout the series, although Shawn is a bit of player in the early seasons (as well as Gus, and they usually compete for the attention of women who ignore them). Shawn's dad is a retired cop, played by Corbin Bernsen, who's responsible for passing on his observant investigative skills to Shawn. He knows Shawn's psychic ability is a crock, but keeps the secret. Most episodes open with a flashback to Shawn and Gus as kids learning a lesson (the hard way) from Shawn's dad which relates to that week's episode.
Why You Should Watch: psych features an impressive array of guest stars, mostly from noteworthy film and TV of the '80s or earlier, including legends like George Takai, William Shatner, Molly Ringwald and Ralph Macchio. psych is also excellent at working in theme episodes, with the best probably being the homage to Twin Peaks that utilized original series cast members who inhabited a quirky town called Dual Spires. Even if you've never seen the David Lynch classic series, the episode still contains the signature Shawn and Gus sillyness. (I did an article for my writing gig at slackerheroes.com on the guest stars of psych, please check out the site if you're enjoying my A to Z TV theme!)