When USA’s detective series “Psych” closes up shop after eight seasons on Wednesday, Mar. 26, one of TV’s most enduring best-friend relationships disappears with it.
In a TV landscape littered with human interactions that are confrontational, violent, sexual or all of the above, stories focusing on true platonic friendship are increasingly rare. And even where they exist, people often feel the need to embellish, as if calling a strong, loyal friendship a “bromance” somehow makes it more interesting.
In “Psych,” faux-psychic investigator Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and his faithful partner, pharmaceutical representative Burton “Gus” Guster (Dule Hill), have been friends since boyhood.
“What gave us a lot of the latitude that we had,” says Roday, sitting at lunch with Zap2it, in the company of series creator Steve Franks, “was the seed of childhood best friends. It’s one of the purest, most enduring relationships that you’ll have in your life, when you have a friend that you’ve known from the time you’re a child.
“So many relationships have expiration dates. Even when you don’t think they’re going to, they end up a lot of times ending. Your best friend from childhood generally endures. When you’ve got two guys, when you have that relationship in place, and these guys are never going to leave each other, it opens up so many doors in terms of what you can do, where you can take them, and how high the stakes can get.
“There’s something about — and I think it’s representative of the man sitting to my right — there’s a purity in the childlike glee that comes along with loving life as much as he does, and he injected that into these two characters. That’s 80 percent of the show, frankly.”
“Also,” says Franks, “the reason you don’t see a lot of buddy shows is you don’t quite get that magic with two actors all the time. You never know until you see it up on the screen. From the beginning, these two guys hit the ground running. We knew we could go there always. The show is, in a strange way, a romance between two friends.
“It was always about the relationship. People were always interested in the Shawn and Juliet of it all, but in the end, the relationship of the show is the two friends.”
Says Roday, “I feel like we did our best to service that trope. Shawn and Juliet could have easily been a lot less than we made it, and we still could have had something very similar to the show that we had. I think we challenged ourselves to do interesting things.”
“Juliet” is Detective Juliet “Jules” O’Hara (Maggie Lawson) of the Santa Barbara, Calif., Police Department, who worked professionally with Shawn on cases for several seasons, until the two gave in to their romantic inclinations. Also, by all accounts, Lawson and Roday have been an off-screen couple since 2006.
But the romantic love between Shawn and Juliet hasn’t interfered with the deep brotherly love between Shawn and Gus, proving that Yoko doesn’t always have to break up the band.
“Exactly,” Roday says. “The romantic relationship was more rich and fulfilling for fans than it probably actually ever needed to be, because it wasn’t about that.
“Same thing with Shawn and Henry” — Shawn’s father, played by Corbin Bernsen — “We just challenged ourselves there as well, to keep that relationship alive and give it as much nuance as possible, knowing, at the end of the day, it was still going to be about these two guys running around acting like fools.”