"Our self imposed mandate for this season [is] 20% more of everything. So you're going to get 20% more action, 20% more comedy, 20% more drama, 20% more emotional grounding,' promises James Roday, who stars in USA network's hit series "Psych." Roday and co-star Dule Hill brought their on-screen bantering to a chat with The Futon Critic's Jim Halterman about the third season, which premieres tonight after the season premiere of "Monk."
Roday (who plays faux psychic Shawn) and Hill (reluctant cohort Gus) revealed that the references to '80s pop culture, the escapades of being a fake psychic and pineapples (for those not familiar with the show, a pineapple makes an appearance in some form in every episodes and often in the promos, too) are all intact for the new season as well as the usual mix of comedy and crime.
Roday and Hill are also fully aware of the mantra, "If it's not broke, don't fix it," they are also not opposed to shaking things up a little bit to keep things fresh. Hill chimed in and said, "I think with any long-running TV show, you have to continue to challenge yourself to improve on what you've done. Otherwise, you'll get stale." He added that, "If you keep going around the same mountain over and over again, people will stay around for a little while but eventually they'll get bored and it becomes very predictable."
Roday was quick to support what Hill had said by saying, "there are key components about our show that are never going to change because its what everybody loves and it's what Shawn and Gus are. But on top of that, I think the challenge for us making a television show [is] to bring new stuff into the fold every year that fans can embrace and love just as much as the old stuff."
Case in point, Golden Globe-winner Cybill Shepherd shows up in tonight's episode as Shawn's mother but wasn't asked to bring her comedic acting chops to the table. Roday explained, "We actually asked a lot out of [Cybill] in the premiere, as you'll see, in terms of sort of anchoring the episode in a dramatic way. And, you know, that's not easy when... you come in and you don't know anybody and you're a guest on a show and it's like Oh, by the way, can you get really, really serious for us as well?" Shepherd will appear in a few more episodes this season, the guys promised.
Also, watch for some character development in the new season, Roday teased. "You're going to see some stuff that you're not used to seeing on "Psych." We're going to be peeling back a few layers on Shawn's character, looking at his sort of family history a bit more. There's going to be some more serious moments right out of the gate with the premiere. And then, to balance that, we've also got some pretty big episodes lined up in terms of scope. We've got a daredevil episode where... we did more stunts in one episode that we've done the entire series combined. So, we're trying to blow it all out, man, in the name of good, clean summer fun."
One of the key elements of the series has always been the sharp, entertaining chemistry between Roday and Hill, which both actors feel will continue to develop as the series progresses. Since the characters of Shawn and Gus are life-long friends, Roday commented that, "we get to sort of invent [our] history as we go along and make new memories every week." Hill added that, "we vibe very well off-camera and that helps with the chemistry on-screen in that we both like to have a good time and crack jokes, and sing songs from the Eighties, and that helps us... keep things in tune on-screen also."
The fact that they're moving into a third season has also helped bring a sense of ease, Roday said. "We can stop worrying about some of the more stringent aspects of [the show] and really just start having more fun and... coming up with those little bits and pieces that add up to a friendship that's lasted for 30 years."
Besides the humor and crime drama elements of the series, a little romance may be part of the recipe this year, as well. Asked if things might move forward with Shawn and Jules (Junior Detective and partner to skeptic Carlton), Roday said, "I would say that it's still certainly going to be an element and we'll probably do what we usually do which is just dangle it in front of everybody for as long as we can until we, ourselves, get a little uncomfortable with it and then yank it back."
Besides Shepherd's turn as Shawn's mother, "Psych" will bring through a parade of guest stars this season. Hill revealed that, "we have some great guest actors coming in... we also have Rachel Leigh Cook... Steven Weber... Jeff Fahey... Ted Lange... [and] Christopher McDonald." Roday added, "Gary Cole is [also] joining us. Everything is 20% better including our guest cast."
When he's not in front of the camera, Roday also has his hand in the writing of some episodes of "Psych." Having penned several episodes, he has more scripts coming this season. "The script that I'm working on right now will be our sort of tribute to the Friday the 13th franchise, which is very close to me because I was raised on slasher films of the Eighties and I think it's very cool that they're letting us do that." Roday also promises some real scares with this particular episode. "It should be a lot scarier than the stuff that we usually do on our show because we're going to try to come up with some real genuine, heart pounding moments as well." Hill also added that Roday would be making his directorial debut with that same episode.
Finally, Roday and Hill discussed how Vancouver (where "Psych" is filmed) is made to double for Santa Barbara, California. Roday gave kudos to those behind the scenes by saying, "we have a pretty resourceful production design team who do a pretty good job of helping us out and making you feel like we're in Santa Barbara."
"Pysch" premieres tonight on the USA Network at 10:00/9:00c, following the season premiere of "Monk."