Years ago, I tried without success to get my sisters into the TV show Psych.
“The mysteries are stupid,” they said.
“The mysteries aren’t the point,” I replied.
“You can’t ignore them!” they claimed.
But I have, and I do, and so did the viewers of The Thin Man series starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, in which the detective always has to be forced onto a case because he’d rather be partying or vegging out. Sound familiar, Psych fans?
The witty repartee between the starring couple, Nick and Nora Charles, is what so many writers have tried to imitate since—not the mysteries’ quality, or the sometimes painfully melodramatic performances of the minor characters. Likewise, the interaction between the detective pair on Psych is so much the focus that commercials give no hint about the actual content of the episodes, as in the characters’ classic Hall & Oates spoof.
Psych episode (“Let’s Get Hairy,” Season 4, Episode 8): Partners Shawn and Gus are dressing dolls up as their favorite 1980s WWF wrestlers before a match rather than drumming up detecting business.
The first Thin Man: Nora is trying to convince Nick into taking a case as he shoots balloons (and eventually a window) with a play gun she gave him for Christmas.
“Aw Nicky, take the case,” she says.
“You take it,” he answers. “I’m too busy.”
Pleasure before business? Check.
Adults acting like kids? Check.
Clever references? Check.
Perfect repartee? Check.
I know some classic movie fans will find my comparison insulting to the more sophisticated films and the brilliant book that inspired them. But such critics should give more credit to Psych’s dialogue, such as this exchange, which captures the show’s attitude toward the mysteries:
Shawn: “We came to investigate, catch bad guys and eat pie.”
Gus: “Not necessarily in that order.”
Shawn: “And it hasn’t been.”
Shawn: “We started with the pie.”
Gus: “Always.” (Season 5, Episode 12, “Dual Spires”)
Even if you dislike Psych, don’t miss out on Nick and Nora. Eighty years of fans. Five sequels (the last over a decade after the first). Scores of imitators. Observe the publication date on this NPR story discussing upcoming novellas of The Thin Man sequels. Sequels, mind you, which most of us try to forget, not commemorate decades later.
What are your thoughts on Psych and The Thin Man? Would you rather party with Nick and Nora, or Shawn and Gus? Did you like the first Thin Man best, or did the scene with Nick and the snoozers in the second make it your favorite? What other Nick and Shawn similarities have you noticed?