Criminal TV shows were rolling nonstop on our screens during the 2000s. In the ocean of detective and criminal dramas, few of them stood out from the rest. One is Psych, a 2006 detective comedy-drama that follows a man named Shawn, a young crime consultant for the Santa Barbara Police Department whose “psychic” powers are used for solving crimes. The second one is The Mentalist, a 2008 American detective-drama series that follows Patrick Jane, a former “psychic” who is a consultant for the CBI, and with his “powers” trying to solve crimes. In this article, we will put these two shows against each other – so, Psych vs. The Mentalist. which show should you watch?
Regardless of the similarities of the main characters, Psych and The Mentalist are so much different from each other. One is a comedy-detective show that most of the time relies on comedy and a few drama story arcs and the second one is a drama show with few quirky, comedic moments. You should definitely watch both of them because each of these two shows presents different styles and storylines that are special in their own way.
We will analyze this topic further by talking about each show’s premises, and some cool facts, and in the end, conclude this discussion with our opinion of which show should you watch and why. If you are interested, stick with us until the end of the article.
Short Introduction to Psych
As we already mentioned, Psych is a comedy-drama detective show that first started to air in 2006 and continued to air until 2014, when the 8th and last season of the show was aired on the NBC network. The story follows Shawn Spencer, a young consultant for the Santa Barbara Police Department, whose “heightened observational skills” and just impressive eidetic memory allow him to convince people that he solves cases with psychic abilities. On his journey, Shawn brought his best friend Burton “Gus” Guster, who looked reluctant when Shawn told him about a potential partnership.
Throughout the show, Shawn and Gus are helping the PD with cases, and the whole “psychic” thing is irritating to members of the SBPD. One of them is Carlton “Lassie” Lassiter, who does not like Shawn at all, and their tension and bickering lead to mostly funny situations. Lassie is the only character in the show that does not believe Shawn has powers and in the end he proves correct. Other characters include Shawn’s strict father and ex-police officer Henry, Junior Detective Juliet O’Hara, who is Shawn’s first friend than a love interest, and Karen Vick, a Chief of the Santa Barbara Police Department.
The whole show is witty, funny, and lighthearted with few serious scenes that usually have a good message or deeper meaning.
The show was a success since its first episode and the scheme of the episodes the Psychs were going with was quite cool at the time. Most of the episodes would begin with a cold open in the form of flashbacks to Gus’s and Shawn’s childhood where Shawn’s father Henry would teach the two friends a valuable life lesson.
These lessons often play a huge role in the plot of the episode, and usually set a ton of the episode. Everybody believes Shawn about his psychic skills except Lassie, which is a running gag of the show until its end.
Psych always had loyal fans but during the lockdown, new fans joined the Psych fan club and started supporting and following any new content showrunners offer to them. The popularity of the show propelled the Psych producers to develop three movies, with all main characters coming back to reprise their roles.
Short Introduction to The Mentalist
The Mentalist is a more serious show than Psych since it follows Patrick Jane, an independent consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation, CBI, based in Sacramento, California. Before becoming CBI’s consultant, Jane had a lucrative career as a con man, who was successfully posing as a man who has psychic skills and can communicate with the dead. He was arrogant, and cocky and enjoyed being in the spotlight all the time.
However, one faithful day, Jane appeared on a television show and declared that he helped the police to find a serial killer Red John. That was not true at all, and the serial killer Red John decided to teach Patrick Jane a lesson – kill Jane’s wife and daughter. This was a turning point in his life, and Jane saw an opportunity to avenge his family by joining CBI and helping them catch the serial killer.
Throughout the show, we meet various characters, like Teresa Lisbon, a special agent in charge of CBI, later in the show, a leader of the Serious Crime Unit, and finally, a special agent with the FBI. Then we have other members of Lisbon’s squad, Special Agents Kimball Cho, Grace Van Pelt, and Wayne Rigsby.
Lisbon’s squad is tasked with finding Red John, Jane sees an opening and uses his manipulation to join the squad, with the cover as a consultant. The show uses seasons one to three for CBI solving general cases with few Red John copycats in the way, and seasons four to season six are reserved solely for catching the serial killer.
They eventually do it, of course, with tons of events and situations complicating their journey, but the middle of season six shows Jane finally closing that part of his life. However, the FBI steps in and shuts down CBI and employs our main characters.
The Mentalist does not have the same narrating choices as Psych – the show uses a more common narrative scheme of the criminal shows from the 2000s. That means that episodes immediately follow what the main characters are doing, do a few gags, get a call that there was a murder, and Patrick Jane uses techniques, that are mostly illegal to help to solve the case. Even though Jane is not a con man at that point of the show, his performance is never lacking when uncovering the truth behind the crimes, which is his “shtick” throughout the series.
Which Show Should You Watch? (Conclusion)
Because of their longevity, both shows did suffer a bit from repetitiveness, and “plot fatigue”. This was a common thing during the 2000s when criminal shows relied on the same TV formula that mostly consisted of episode long arcs of main characters solving the case in one episode and huge arcs, like the one we had in the Mentalist with Red John, being put in the background until it became relevant again.
Psych and The Mentalist were not revolutionary but had something different from previous shows which viewers liked a lot – CSI fatigue was real at that point.
To conclude, even though both shows share some similarities, mostly around the premise of the main characters, they are vastly different. The Mentalist adopts a serious drama that correlates with comedy a few times an episode (mostly Jane’s quirks and Lisbon being fed up with him) and follows the characters on the journey to uncover a serial killer who is overtaking their lives and simultaneously destroying them.
Psych is a comedy and detective drama that is mostly running on gags of Gus and Shawn who are bouncing off the supporting cast pretty well, which does not mean the show is not serious – it can turn serious in a second. Lassie’s divorce and Juliet’s struggles with her family are one of the dozen serious themes that are presented in the show and are portrayed beautifully, emphasizing the struggles of the characters, even when they are not serious all the time.
That is why you need to watch both shows since they are offering different premises and cool stories that can intrigue any viewer.
Also, this next fact might be getting one point over The Mentalist because Psych has another running gag throughout the series – mentioning The Mentalist. Because Psych came out two years prior to the Mentalist, the latter definitely borrowed a few details from the Psych and made it into their own thing.
Since Shawn is a supposed “psychic”, he makes fun of Patrick Jane character’s powers being fake and usually mentioned how his favorite show is, you guessed it, the Mentalist. This gag is funny, charming, and a reminder to the fans that Psych did it first.