When “Psych” premiered back in 2006, it was a modest success but many worried the off-kilter, tongue-in-cheek mystery-of-the-week comedy starring relative unknowns would get the ax.
“We were still finding our niche,” recalls co-star Maggie Lawson in a video interview. “People really hadn’t seen that sort of hour-long procedural dramedy before. Thankfully, the network gave us time to find it.” Find it they did, in 120 episodes and now three TV movies.
In “Psych 3: This Is Gus,” the crime-solving goofball duo at the show’s center — hyper-observant Shawn (James Roday Rodriguez) and former ladies’ man Gus (Dulé Hill) — are starting to grow up. One’s married to longtime detective foil Juliet (Lawson), while Gus, whose story drives the plot in this outing, has both a wedding and baby on the horizon. Hill’s real-life wife, Jazmyn Simon, returns as Gus’s on-screen partner Selene, whom he finally marries.
Considering the two leads aren’t happy-go-lucky 30-year-olds, as when the show began, longtime “Psych” producer Chris Henze admitted concerns about “jumping the shark.”
“It was a crapshoot,” he said in an interview. “Would it be kind of sad now, or were we going to keep laughing our -sses off? We were just going to do it and see what happens.”
When the cameras started rolling, Lawson said the duo rekindled their rapid-fire improvising – which “made it impossible to not break and start laughing in scenes.” She related how Hill and Rodriguez continually try to crack up the other on-set and can’t. “Forget the rest of us! We spend most of our days resetting,” she said.
This reunion flick blends friction, feeling, and farce: there’s Groomzilla Gus, detective Carlton “Lassie” Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) trying to find his place, and a revelation about Selene’s former husband that kickstarts a rogue investigation. It also builds on established character dynamics, jumping right to in-jokes that assume viewers know the show.
“We kept the core dynamic intact, which is two regular guys with a lot of flaws in dangerous situations who have this great bromance together,” said Henze. “Stick with that, and they can keep doing this when they’re 46 years old, apparently, and it’s still funny and not sad.”
After Stroke, Cast and Crew Rally for Recovery
Moments of melancholy in “Psych 3” reflect the show’s penchant for pathos — and recent real-world events. Four years ago, just as shooting was set to start on the first “Psych” reunion movie, 47-year-old co-star Omundson suffered a debilitating stroke that required multiple surgeries. He returned to his wife and two teenage daughters months later, wheelchair-bound. But his family wasn’t alone in believing for his recovery.
The cast and crew of “Psych” rallied around Omundson, who starred throughout the show’s run as by-the-book detective Lassiter. Show creator Steve Franks and Rodriguez rewrote the first film in 70 hours, switching Omundson’s role from physically demanding to a small video-chat cameo that ensured he’d get a paycheck. “We just wanted Tim to have his insurance from SAG for doing the movie,” said Franks at the time.
Their second film, released last summer after “Psych” became a binge-watching sensation during COVID lockdowns, was titled “Lassie Comes Home” and centered on Omundson’s character, who walks by the end. “I don’t know anybody like Tim, what he has gone through and where he is now,” said Lawson. “I call him my warrior friend because I really believe he is, and his spirit is just the most positive.”
“Psych 3” furthers the stroke storyline. “Part and parcel to his whole journey was the role his wife and family have played in it,” Franks said. “So we wanted to shine a light on the extra challenges that family members have as well.”
The film has scenes of Omundson bucking against help offered by his pre-teen daughter. In a way that doesn’t feel forced, he and longtime “Psych” co-star Corbin Bernsen slow down the dramedy to discuss mortality and identity.
Written by Franks and Rodriguez, those scenes are reportedly based on real-life conversations the two actors shared. “What’s next for him is more than enough, and he’s going to find out his family has been there the whole time,” said the show creator.
Humor and Heart
Most viewers of this comedy would not realize there is such a dramatic backdrop, as they laugh at all the gags and pop-culture references. “We’ve always been confused that we have such a young following,” said Franks “All of our references are from the ’80s and ’90s, so how are these kids even getting this?”
While the “Psych” franchise has cross-generational appeal, it’s hardly squeaky clean. Past episodes feature coarse language and occasional cases set in locations like strip clubs, while “Psych 3” centers on a shotgun wedding precipitated by unmarried Gus and his pregnant fiancée wanting to “make it legitimate” for parents’ sake.
“We knew our audience was young, but we didn’t want to play down to it as if this were a kids’ show,” said Henze. “It has some double entendres and situations that are a little bit blue, but they’re tame, sometimes buried, and always fun. We never try to make it edgy.”
Franks notes that they plan six “Psych” TV movies in total, with the cast committed to keep going. Possibly hinting at future storylines, Shawn and Juliet initially seem to reject the notion of parenting in this film — but it leaves their discussion open.
Co-star of several TV comedies, Lawson sets apart “Psych” as “my heart and my family” while commenting on its longevity. “There were people who watched the show initially who were maybe in college, and now have kids watching this film. It still blows my mind.”
Rated TV-PG for some mature situations, “Psych 3: This Is Gus” premieres on free, ad-supported streaming service Peacock.