Saturday, June 3, 2023

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On The Tube

Crime-fighting through song


TVCreator Steve Franks has made a success out of “Psych,” the comedy-drama about a private investigator who fakes psychic powers but now faces the challenge of freshening things up after seven seasons. Franks goes for broke with “Psych: The Musical,” a two-hour, over-the-top Broadway-style episode (Sunday, 8 p.m., USA). That’s right: singing and dancing crime-fighters and let’s-put-on-a-show chutzpah that viewers will either love or loathe.

The plot itself is about putting on a show — just the start of the musical’s relentless self-referentiality. A playwright (Anthony Rapp) has escaped from an insane asylum after killing a critic during his last musical production. (I get the point: Critics beware.) Bickering investigators Shawn (James Roday) and Gus (Dulé Hill) track him down with help from a song-obsessed nutcase (Ally Sheedy).

“Psych: The Musical” is jokey, high-spirited and mostly enjoyable. It occasionally gets too silly, but it also makes fun of its own silliness. That pretty much renders the production critic-proof.

Just as well, I guess, given the grisly fate that awaits critics of musicals.


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“Ultimate Survival Alaska”

Sunday, 8 p.m. (National Geographic Channel)

This competition series features hearty souls who specialize in survival: teams of mountaineers, military veterans, endurance athletes and woodsmen. Each team tries to win a race across 1,500 miles of Alaskan wilderness with only the gear on their backs. Against a relentlessly white backdrop, they snowshoe over glaciers, plunge down gullies and fight dangerous rapids risking starvation, hypothermia and wild animals, but oddly, the contestants couldn’t be happier.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” insists a mountaineer named Marty.

Well, I’m sitting here watching cable TV with a warm blanket, a cup of hot chocolate and a box of ginger cookies. Marty, I hate to say it, but I think that’s a lot better than what you’re going through.


“Whale Wars”

Friday, 8 p.m. (Animal Planet)

This special picks up the story of the Sea Shepherds who sail into Antarctica to protect whales from Japanese fishermen. Leader Paul Watson has been called an “eco-terrorist” for his methods of interfering with the Japanese vessels. But viewers who’ve been watching “Whale Wars” for five seasons may consider him as a principled conservationist who risks everything for the sake of an endangered species. As he asks potential crew members: “Are you ready to risk your life to save a whale?”

In the two-hour special, Watson goes underground after skipping bail in Germany. Then he returns to the high seas for another mission with new boats and crew members. The problem is that the Japanese have filed a lawsuit against him in the U.S., and a court has imposed strict limits on his activities. If he continues to lead the Sea Shepherds, the entire crew could face prison and financial ruin. Will they stick with him, continuing to risk their lives to save the whales?

Personally, I wouldn’t be willing to risk my life. But I am willing to watch an entire two-hour special about the people who do. I hope the whales appreciate that gesture. CV

Dean Robbins is a syndicated TV columnist from Madison, Wis. See more of his work at

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Summer Stir (June 2023)