USA network prides itself on its "blue skies" dramas, but those skies get cloudy in the intriguing new series, "Necessary Roughness" (9 p.m. June 29, USA; ** 1/2 stars out of 4).
"Life is like football," Long Island therapist Dani Santino says in the opening voiceover. "No matter how much protective gear you wear, at some point you're going to get the living crap kicked out of you."
Oh wait, I should be coming up with football metaphors. Hmmm… sorry, got nothing.
Dani (Callie Thorne of "Rescue Me") doesn’t know much about football, either, when she gets the living crap kicked out of her: Her husband (Craig Bierko) has been fooling around with several women. When she throws him out, he fires back by playing hardball in divorce proceedings.
Dan gets lucky—in more ways than one—when she meets Matthew (Marc Blucas), a trainer for the (fictional) pro football team New York Hawks. After she helps him kick his cigarette habit, he decides to bring her in to his boss, who then hires her to help their troubled star player, TK (Mehcad Brooks), stop dropping the ball.
Obviously TK’s problem goes beyond slippery hands, even if “Necessary Roughness” doesn’t dive too deeply into psychology beyond, say, “how does that make you feel?”
Like most of USA’s dramedies, “Necessary Roughness” isn’t necessarily believable. But I totally buy Thorne—in fact I love her—as a woman dealing with a philandering hubby, a teen daughter who skips school, a teen son who’s a player like his dad, and a mom who likes to play the ponies.
Thorne gets great support from Blucas and Scott Cohen, who stars as the football team’s mysterious fixer, but her scenes with Concetta Tomei, who plays her mother, really pop.
“Ma, he cheated on me, more than once,” Dani says when her mom suggests she stay with her hubby. Her mother replies: “But less than Tiger Woods.”
Scenes showing that kind of family dysfunction, in Dani’s brood as well as those of her clients, cast a shadow over the proceedings and make me think “Necessary Roughness” will be a bit darker than the usual USA fare. It also gives me hope that this will be more than a “psychological issue of the week” format. (According to the press materials, Dani will take on all kinds of high-profile, rich-and-famous clients.)
“Necessary Roughness” hasn’t scored a touchdown yet, but it’s early in the game. (Sorry, that’s the best I could do with the football thing.)
WATCH more videos from "Necessary Roughness" and other shows at my Sneak Peeks page.
ROYAL PAINS RETURNS
Clouds never threaten the Hamptons in “Royal Pains” (8 p.m. June 29, USA; *** stars out of 4), the breezy, bright doctor dramedy returning for its third season.
As summer returns to the Hamptons, concierge Dr. Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein) and his brother, Evan (Paulo Costanzo), become local heroes when they help out after a traffic accident. Of course one of the drivers may have a more serious complication, but nothing Hank can’t handle, I’m sure.
He’ll no doubt take on the issues of his former landlord, Boris (Campbell Scott), his girlfriend, Jill (Jill Flint), and his assistant, Divya (Reshma Shetty), and a myriad of guest-star patients.
“Royal Pains” is nothing if not predictable, but it’s well-written, well-acted and the perfect prescription for any summer pains.