When Psych came on the air in 2006, it wasn’t that different from many other things on TV. There was the classic buddy comedy taking place between Shawn and Gus with their witty banter and ridiculous shenanigans. On the other side of things there was the good cop/bad cop duo of Juliet O’Hara and Carlton Lassiter, constantly dealing with Shawn and Gus getting out of hand. Romantic tension only took about .5 seconds to make its way into the proceedings before the producers realized Shawn and Juliet worked well together (they have been dating for most of the show as well, lending a lot of reality to their on-screen chemistry) and decided that no goofy procedural should be without a will-they/won’t they. It didn’t really stand out from everything else on USA, fitting right in to the comprehensive “Characters Welcome” mantra that they had established not long before. It is a clear descendant of Monk (quirky detective, straight man sidekick) and a precursor to current mainstays like Royal Pains (straight man gets dragged along on a zany idea turned lucrative), but other than that it hasn’t made any “Best Of” lists and most likely won’t receive much fanfare when it’s gone. Solid family fun programming that fits in with the network’s goals; nothing more, nothing less.
However, Psych does have one trait about it that should be remembered as something of an anomaly in the television world. The theme song, “I Know, You Know” was the first theme song to be written and performed by a show’s creator. As far as I’m aware, it has maintained this distinction even after being on the air for 7 seasons (and counting). Creator Steve Franks and his band “The Lonely Indians” were formed back in the 90’s as just a group of friends who met via their jobs at Disneyland jamming out together to blow off steam and enjoy their musical talents. When Franks eventually made Psych for USA Network, he decided that the simplest thing for a theme song would be to write one himself and have his band record it for the express use of the show. Instead of searching high and low for the perfect tone to match the quirkiness of his characters, he relied on his own passion for music to create a song not only jaunty in tone but with lyrics that pretty much describe the mindset of the main character every time he takes part in a police case.
Not only did it make finding a song that went with the show a piece of cake, but there are long term positives still playing themselves out as the seasons go on. Primarily, that whenever Franks and his creative team want to slightly alter the lyrics or style of the theme for different occasions (such as this, this, this, this, this, or this) they don’t have to go to the original artist or rights holder for permission to do so. They got Boyz II Men to do a theme for the show! That awesomeness cannot be underestimated, and I’m pretty sure it would’ve been too much effort and money for USA to pay them to sing it on top of getting permission. Every variation is like a little gift when it’s a theme episode and it opens up with a different singer or the cast dressed up. In addition, “The Lonely Indians” singing the song also makes it so the show never has to go without a theme song in later seasons when budgets get cut in favor of newer and higher rated shows. This was a problem for One Tree Hill in its later years when it was a shell of its former self and only had the budget to cover the remaining cast members but not to keep sending Gavin Degraw those meaty royalty checks for 22 episodes a year. Granted this is a good problem to have in the long run.
If the show has survived long enough to warrant cutting the theme song to keep it on the air rather than just outright canceling it well, there are worse sacrifices to make. But in an age where true theme songs are increasingly rare on networks because that time can be better allocated getting precious ad dollars, it’s good to know on some shows that it won’t go away. Not having a theme song really does take away from the viewing experience. The fervor over the Game of Thrones theme and visuals that go along with it are possible because HBO is HBO and can do as they please, but without the amazing music and location scouting the gap between “previously on” and “sexy time with your local lords and ladies” becomes a lot more stark. Personally, I was always a bigger fan of True Blood’s theme than I was the show itself. It’s an impressive bit of world building using a pre-existing song and images that have a grand total of zero of the show’s characters in them. That’s what theme songs are all about, even Park and Recreation uses its short time wisely in introducing you to the characters and their individuality before you laugh at them for the next 22 minutes.
Steve Franks isn’t the only showrunner who has a penchant for finding the absolute pitch perfect music to accompany his characters in their weekly sojourns. Other’s that come to mind include Jason Katims and Bill Lawrence. Katims seems to have a previously undiscovered gene that allows him to know exactly what song at any given time will make human beings cry their eyes out, and damn if it isn’t effective (looking at you Parenthood). Lawrence is almost the opposite, pairing comedy with indie music or lightening up the end of a particularly dramatic episode with some long lost mid-90’s throwback that matches so well it’s eerie. During his Scrubs days, he had a lot of help from Zach Braff in that department but he’s proven himself able across the board since. It would be nice if more people behind our favorite (or even less-than-loveable) shows had the penchant for music that Franks does, but for now we will have to be fine enjoying the ones who are already proving how not needing a music supervisor to do ALL the heavy lifting can be better in the long run.
- Psych’s musical episode was supposed to air this season, but was pushed to next year. USA now has it scheduled as the same type of between seasons 2-hour special that the Royal Pains wedding was last winter. Many of the past send-ups of famous movies and shows were the result of a cast member having a ridiculous knowledge of said subject (see: James Roday and his love of Twin Peaks making itself clear in “Dual Spires”). I’m curious as to how Franks’ own musical talents will influence which styles they do or even if a cameo is in store.
- Roday in a cowboy hat in the standard credits gets me every time, as does Dule Hill falling while running up the steps. I don’t know why I laugh, but I do.
- Here are both the standard credits and the full song for your enjoyment: