What if "Monk" were a carefree, childlike goofball of the Will Ferrell variety? The comedy "Psych" (9 p.m., USA) explores this question with varying success. As a young boy, Shawn Spencer (James Roday) was trained by his policeman father (Corbin Bernsen) to refine his remarkable powers of observation, recall and deduction.
Unlike the tortured Adrian Monk, Shawn is an unemployed slacker and jokester. Shawn uses his powers to pass himself off as a psychic to the local police. He partners up with his more orderly and straight-laced pal (Dule Hill in a nice departure from his "West Wing" role) to form a detective agency.
Authorities are impressed by Shawn's results and enraged by his attitude. In short, he's just a dude, outdoing "the man," because he's cooler. As such, Shawn follows in the comedic footsteps of Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson in last summer's "Wedding Crashers," or Bill Murray in "Ghost Busters," Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland in the big-screen "M*A*S*H" or Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in the "Road" pictures.
But the police are not the only ones unsure of themselves. Shawn's barrage of jokes straddles the line between cool and trying too hard. And last week's debut episode included a shot of the grisly aftermath of a murder-suicide. This stark imagery was way out of tune with the show's breezy tone.
At the end of the day, it's not clear why we should like or root for Shawn to maintain his essential lie. The intuitive genius that came to Monk through personal tragedy and obsessive-compulsive disorder is merely a quirky party game for Shawn. But Monk's depth of feeling has sustained that series through five seasons. It remains to be seen how long viewers will enjoy Shawn's glib masquerade.
¢ Do passing years really matter when you have a space portal? This question probably makes sense only to fans of "Stargate SG-1" (8 p.m., Sci Fi), now entering its 10th season.
"Stargate Atlantis" (9 p.m., Sci Fi) enters its third season tonight, with the evil Wraith bent on revenge after the disintegration of a brief alliance. Look for Mitch Pileggi in a guest stint.
And if this didn't provide enough "Stargate" to open, the one-hour special "The Science of Stargate" (7 p.m., Sci Fi) precedes the doubleheader.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ Abby attracts a stalker on "NCIS" (7 p.m., CBS).
¢ On two episodes of "24" (Fox), Kim returns, grim as ever (7 p.m.), Logan's questionable moves (8 p.m.).
¢ Agony in Iberia on "The Unit" (8 p.m.).
¢ A rare gem needs high security on "Las Vegas" (8 p.m., NBC).
¢ Kyle navigates, encounters truths and lies on "Kyle XY" (8 p.m., ABC).
¢ A corporate whistle-blower breathes no more on "Numb3rs" (9 p.m., CBS).
¢ Kathleen Turner guest stars on "Law & Order" (9 p.m., NBC).
¢ Scheduled on "20/20" (9 p.m., ABC): new government edicts on breast-feeding; an innovative approach to barter; gas prices and common sense; lobsters.