USA – Unique Summer (Television) Amusement

I can remember back when the summer months meant we couldn’t find anything new to watch on television… maybe a reality program here, or a two-hour made-for-TV-special there, but no new series.

But not anymore.

The last two weeks, we discussed all of the terrific summer nighttime television shows specific to TNT… but TNT is not alone.

The USA Network also has some of the best summer programming of any other channel today.  This year, I count six series (five returning favorites and one new) that my household will watch, keeping our TV schedules full of unique summer television amusement.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll discuss these USA series.  First up, three of the network’s veteran programs, premiering in their third, fifth, and seventh seasons this June…

*****

Burn Notice

Why is Burn Notice white hot? Sexy stars, massive explosions, and intricate plots combined with explorations of relationships between family members, best friends, and lovers make for some of the best programming on television today.

Burned by the U.S. government, former spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) wakes up bruised and sore in a run-down Miami motel with no memory of how he got there.   A burned spy has nothing—no job and no money.  It’s as if the last few years of Michael’s life didn’t even happen.  He takes on odd jobs as a private investigator to make some cash, and builds a team of former acquaintances, ex-girlfriends, and family members to help him unravel the truth behind why the CIA blacklisted him AND discover who was the mastermind behind his burn notice.

Michael’s team consists of Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), a former Navy SEAL and friend who was forced to inform on Michael to the FBI; Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), Michael’s ex-lover and current girlfriend, and a former IRA agent who doubles as an arms dealer and bounty hunter; Madeline Westen (Sharon Gless), Michael’s chain-smoking mother; and, the most recent addition, Jesse Porter (Coby Bell), a former counterintelligence agent that Michael accidentally burned while uncovering truths behind his own burn notice.

Every season answers a few more questions pertaining to Michael’s burn notice, but similarly adds even more fuel to the fire.

Season seven premieres Thursday, June 6th.

*****

Necessary Roughness

Necessary Roughness follows Dani Santino (Callie Thorne), a New York woman attempting to balance her family and her career following a recent divorce.  She accepts a position as a therapist for a professional football team, and is assigned to assist the team’s star receiver in actually catching the ball.  She sees other clients, sometimes a new client per episode, but primarily Dr. D focuses her time and energy on the New York Hawks and T.K. (Terrance King, aka Mehcad Brooks).

The series also stars Scott Cohen as Nico, the team’s head of security, and Marc Blucas as Matt, the team’s general manager… both of whom are Dani’s love interests.

As an added bonus, the show is inspired by a true story.

Season three premieres Wednesday, June 12th.

*****

Royal Pains

Royal Pains stars Mark Feuerstein as Dr. Hank Lawson, a former New York Emergency Room doctor dismissed after an alleged wrongful death case.  He moves to the Hamptons and begins making house calls to the rich and famous as a “concierge doctor,” and sometimes even helps the less fortunate.  Hank’s company, HankMed, also consists of his brother/CFO (Evan played by Paulo Costanzo) and his invaluable assistant (Divya played by Reshma Shetty).

The series also stars Henry Winkler as Hank and Evan’s father, Eddie Lawson, and Campbell Scott as Boris Kuester von Jurgens-Ratenicz (isn’t that a great name?!?!).

Season five premieres Wednesday, June 12th.

*****

Do you enjoy any of the above USA Network original programs? Which one are you most looking forward to and why? I’d love to hear from you!

Tele-Tuesday: USA – Unique Summer (Television) Amusement

Last week we discussed all of the terrific summer nighttime television specific to TNT, but TNT is not alone.  The USA Network also has some of the best summer programming of any other channel today.

Last Wednesday kicked off the new USA season with the premieres of their Wednesday night hits, Necessary Roughness, an interesting look at the mind of professional athletes through the eyes of their therapist, and Royal Pains, where a medical doctor makes house calls for his rich and prestigious Hamptons’ clientele.  USA’s Friday nights have also already been filled with episodes of the returning favorite, Fairly Legal, a show centered on a mediator who can fix everyone’s problems but her own, and the new hit, Common Law, where two L.A. detectives love their job but not each other.

But the summer fun doesn’t end there!  Four returning favorites and a new limited series event also premiere over the course of the summer, keeping our TV schedules full of unique summer amusement.

*****

First up, what we already have the pleasure of watching:

Fairly Legal

Fairly Legal follows former attorney turned mediator Kate Reed (Sarah Shahi) as she tries to change San Francisco for the better.  On the exterior, Kate appears tough and callous, but anyone who actually knows her knows that she has a bleeding heart for those less fortunate—and by less fortunate, we only mean those that the rich can afford to beat down in a court of law.

Kate lets both sides tell their stories, and she typically sides with the underdog.  Actually, even though she works for a large and prestigious law firm, Kate doesn’t like much about Corporate America.  But Kate is good at what she does, and most of her cases are assigned to her by the courts and usually by a judge that keeps a stern fist with her.   Trust me; Kate needs someone to keep her in line…

One of Kate’s only confidants is her assistant, Leo (Baron Vaughn), because for the most part, Kate alienates everyone around her: her step-mother/partner/roommate/boss, Lauren Reed (Virginia Williams); her ex-husband/ADA, Justin Patrick (Michael Trucco); and the firm’s most recent addition, her partner Ben Grogan (Ryan Johnson).

Fairly Legal is unique; instead of the traditional TV police procedural or courtroom drama, we see a glimpse into the life of another legal aspect: mediation.  Plus there’s a love triangle.  What TV show is complete without the love triangle?  And why do I find myself pulling for the new guy, Ben, when most others hope Kate and Justin rekindle their romance?

The season two finale airs Friday, but Fairly Legal is still worthy of a nod here…

Common Law

Common Law follows two Los Angeles detectives with an immense love for the job—a job  they’re good at; they just don’t like each other very much.  When a new police captain moves in, he sends the seven-year partners to relationship counseling or couples therapy to use the term we’re familiar with today.

This brand-new series stars Michael Ealy as Travis Marks and Warren Kole as Wes Mitchell, two partners stuck in a “marriage with bullets.”

Viewers can also expect to see a few other familiar faces: Sonya Walger plays Dr. Elyse Ryan, the detectives’ therapist; Alicia Coppola plays a forensic pathologist; and Nora Zehetner is a new detective on the force, specializing in the digital world.

The USA Network is known for their fantastic original programs: the older and never forgotten Monk and The Dead Zone; the current and favorites Psych and Burn Notice; and the sophomore hits Suits, Necessary Roughness, and Fairly Legal.  After just a few episodes, Common Law falls right into line with the rest of the network’s hits.

The first season of Common Law airs Fridays nights.

Necessary Roughness

Necessary Roughness follows Dani Santino (Callie Thorne), a New York woman attempting to balance her family and her career following a recent divorce.  She accepts a position as a therapist for a professional football team, and is assigned to assist the team’s star receiver (Mehcad Brooks) in actually catching the ball.  She sees other clients, sometimes a new client per episode, but primarily Dr. D focuses her time and energy on the New York Hawks and T.K. (Terrance King, or King Terrance as he wants to be known in season two).

The series also stars Scott Cohen as Nico, the team’s head of security, and Marc Blucas as Matt, the team’s athletic trainer and Dani’s love interest.

As an added bonus, the show is inspired by a true story.

Season two started last week and currently airs on Wednesday nights.

Royal Pains

Royal Pains stars Mark Feuerstein as Dr. Hank Lawson, a former New York Emergency Room doctor dismissed after an alleged wrongful death case who moves to the Hamptons and begins making house calls to the rich and famous as a “concierge doctor,” and sometimes even to the less fortunate.  Hank’s company, HankMed, also consists of his brother/CFO (Evan played by Paulo Costanzo) and his invaluable assistant (Divya played by Reshma Shetty).

The series also stars: Henry Winkler as Hank and Evan’s father, Eddie Lawson; Campbell Scott as Boris Kuester von Jurgens-Ratenicz (isn’t that a great name?!?!), Hank’s first client and landlord of sorts; and Jill Flint as Jill Casey, Hank’s on again/off again love interest.

For a more in-depth look, visit Amber West’s Royal Pains review

Season four also premiered last week and airs on Wednesday nights.

*****

And in the upcoming weeks, we have more to look forward to on USA:

Burn Notice

Why is Burn Notice white hot? Sexy stars, massive explosions, and intricate plots combined with explorations of relationships between family members, best friends, and lovers make for some of the best programming on television today.

Burned by the U.S. government, former spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) wakes up bruised and sore in a run-down Miami motel with no memory of how he got there.   A burned spy has nothing—no job and no money.  It’s as if the last few years of Michael’s life didn’t even happen.  He takes on odd jobs as a private investigator to make some cash, and builds a team of former acquaintances, ex-girlfriends, and family to help him unravel the truth behind why the CIA black-listed him, and discover who was the mastermind behind his burn notice.

Michael’s team consists of Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), a former Navy SEAL and friend who was forced to inform on Michael to the FBI; Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), Michael’s ex-lover and current girlfriend, and a former IRA agent who doubles as an arms dealer and bounty hunter; Madeline Westen (Sharon Gless), Michael’s chain-smoking mother; and, the most recent addition, Jesse Porter (Coby Bell), a former counterintelligence agent that Michael accidentally burned while uncovering truths behind his own burn notice.

Every season answers a few more questions pertaining to Michael’s burn notice, but similarly adds even more fuel to the fire.  Last year ended with a big bang—Fiona being handcuffed and thrown into jail for murder.  Michael is smooth when it comes to his missions, but how will he handle this one?

Season six premieres this Thursday, June 14th.

Suits

Suits follows Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), a recently appointed senior partner at a Manhattan law firm instructed to find another brilliant Harvard Law graduate to work as an associate.  Enter Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), a brilliant man with an eidetic memory (perfect recall) whose recitation of Bar review materials lands him a position at Harvey’s law firm despite the fact he never graduated college.

These two unconventional minds work together balancing the law and lying to everyone—now that’s conflict, right?  How long before the shunned junior associate (Louis Litt, played by Rick Hoffman), or the boss recently frustrated with Harvey’s refusal to follow her instructions (Jessica Pearson, played by Gina Torres) discover the truth?

Suits also stars: Meghan Markle as Rachel, a paralegal at Harvey and Mike’s law firm, also one of very few that actually know the two’s secret; Tom Lipinski as Trevor, Mike’s drug dealing best friend whose escapades landed Mike in front of Harvey in the first place; Vanessa Ray as Jenny, Trevor’s ex-girlfriend and Mike’s current flame, when he isn’t pining away for Rachel; and Sarah Rafferty as Donna, Harvey’s spit-fire assistant.

Last year when I reviewed Suits as a part of my Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday series, I ranked the then freshman series with a Mac TV rating (equivalent to three stars).  If asked to review again, I believe Harvey and Mike would find themselves upgraded into five-star status.  Here’s to hoping the new season doesn’t disappoint.

Season two premieres this Thursday, June 14th.

White Collar

White Collar follows Neal Caffrey (Matt Bomer), a suave and sexy professional con-artist captured by the FBI, and the FBI agent responsible for Neal’s arrest, Peter Burke (Tim DeKay).  What’s interesting about this relationship is that Peter is also responsible for Neal’s release from prison, a special circumstance allowing Neal his freedom under the strict supervision of an ankle monitor and one condition:  Neal must use his criminal expertise to assist the White Collar division of the FBI in capturing bad guys.

Neal enlists the help of his fellow con-man, Mozzie (Willie Garson), who despite his distrust of the government, stands by his friend’s side and builds his own relationship with Peter and Peter’s wife, Elizabeth (Tiffani Theissen).  Each season focuses on a unique and on-going storyline in addition to solving a new FBI case each week.  But remember, Neal is a con despite how clean he attempts to live his life today.  Once a con, always a con—right?

White Collar builds fun and heartfelt character relationships: Peter/Neal, Peter/Elizabeth, Elizabeth/Neal, Elizabeth/Mozzie, Neal/Alex (another of Neal’s con-buddies played by Gloria Votsis), and Neal/Sara (insurance investigator/Neal’s current love interest played by Hilarie Burton), keeping with USA’s motto of character driven television.

The series also stars Marsha Thomason as Peter’s FBI right-hand, Diana, and Sharif Atkins as Special Agent Clinton Jones.  Both Diana and Jones trust Neal, as far as they can throw him; but they want to trust him one-hundred percent… as do the viewers.

Season four premieres July 10th.

Covert Affairs

Abandoned on a deserted island by her love, Annie Walker (Piper Perabo) joins the CIA and is immediately thrust into the world of undercover assignments.  With the help of her blind CIA tech expert, Auggie Anderson (Christopher Gorham), and the former CIA director’s son, Jai Wilcox (Sendhil Ramamurthy), Annie jumps into the toughest cases.  Her boss, Joan Campbell (Kari Matchett), and her boss’s husband, current CIA director Arthur Campbell (Peter Gallagher), constantly throw Annie into veteran situations, testing her abilities, and reviewing her loyalties to the CIA.

Annie also battles familial woes, living in her sister Danielle’s (Anne Dudek) guest house and playing perfect aunt to her two nieces, while keeping her cover story as a researcher at the Smithsonian Institution intact (until she chooses to tell her sister the truth, which doesn’t go over so well as one can imagine).  Living her double life, Annie showcases her kick-ass CIA training, and battles her insecurities one day at a time, making Covert Affairs a fun summer pick.

Despite her training and attributes, Annie isn’t superhuman.  Sometimes I think she makes the worst spy ever, sometimes even one of the most annoying characters on TV today.  But I still keep coming back for more.  Regardless of how I feel about Annie, I always find myself fighting alongside with her in her corner, and it has nothing to do with how adorable Auggie is.  Okay, so maybe it does…

Season three premieres July 10th.

*****

Now that we’ve been through USA’s returning favorites, how about a new miniseries?

Political Animals

Who does everyone think of when we say former First Lady and current Secretary of State?  Did everyone answer Sigourney Weaver?

In the new USA miniseries, Political Animals, Sigourney Weaver plays Elaine Barrish, a recently divorced former First Lady and current Secretary of State fighting to keep her family and her insane position in the U.S. government intact.  The special six episode program also stars: Carla Gugino, a reporter who hasn’t been kind to the Secretary over the years; Ciaran Hinds, the former President and the Secretary’s ex-husband; Adrian Pasdar, the current President; Dylan Baker, the current Vice President; and Ellen Burstyn, the Secretary’s mother.  Now that’s a cast!

Political Animals premieres July 5th.

*****

Whew!  That was a long post, but that’s what happens when one channel shines as USA does.

Do you enjoy any of the above USA original programs?  If so, who is your favorite or least favorite character, keeping in mind that USA thrives on being character driven?  Do you plan to watch Political Animals?  I’d love to hear from you! 

Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – Last Law & Order Standing

This week, Amber West and I are flipping channels over to NBC and sharing our Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday reviews of Harry’s Law and Law & Order: SVU.

For the past twenty plus years, Dick Wolf’s productions have dominated the NBC primetime slots.  He first created the original Law & Order, and then added spinoffs SVU and Criminal Intent, as well as the short-lived Trial by Jury and LA.    

The last of the franchise still standing today is Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, currently in its thirteenth season.  Like the original, SVU has a great ensemble cast, and it showcases gut-wrenching storylines. 

The Special Victims Unit is a specialized department that focuses on assault and rape cases in New York City, often times inspired by today’s headlines.   

For the first twelve seasons, the SVU team depends on lead detectives Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni).  Benson, the product of her mother’s rape, and Stabler, the father of five children, take the cases personally and sometimes take actions we as viewers wish we could see more of on television – in other words, they’re not always by the book, and therefore one of the partners is always in trouble. 

SVU’s cast, for the most part, has remained the same for all thirteen seasons, including: Captain Cragen (Dan Florek), and also detectives Tutuola (Ice-T) and Munch (Richard Belzer). 

The original Law & Order split the hour-long program into two parts – “the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders.” [t1]  SVU doesn’t follow the exact same formula, but does of course involve the district attorney’s office in each episode (returning favorites in season 13 – Casey Novak played by Diane Neal, Alexandra Cabot played by Stephanie March, and Michael Cutter played by Linus Roache from L&O).   

This season, viewers will see a new cast of characters following Meloni’s departure from the show and Hargitay’s rumored request for a lighter workload.  Danny Pino (Cold Case) joins as Det. Nick Amaro from warrants and narcotics, and Kellie Giddish (Chase) transfers to NYC from Atlanta as Det. Amanda Rollins

In addition to SVU’s fictionalized accounts of current events, viewers can count on a large revolving door of guest stars.  So far in season thirteen, we’ve seen a familiar story line where a hotel maid accuses a foreign diplomat of rape.  In episode two, SVU landed guest stars Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years), Mehcad Brooks (Necessary Roughness), and real-life basketball greats Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony.    

This week (tonight actually), Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks, Sex and the City) and Paige Turco (Damages) guest star as husband and wife in a fictionalized account of a particular politician’s scandal. 

Before rating, I must issue this warning – the writers don’t sugar-coat things.  If you don’t like watching bad things happen to children, don’t watch! 

The past few weeks, the GTV rating has been awarded left and right; but, not today.  While I do watch Law & Order: SVU religiously, I can only award the JFTV ratingSVU is like junk food, particularly like that bag of greasy potato chips – it’s not great for us, but we keep coming back for more. 

SVU is the last of the franchise airing new episodes.  I simply can’t imagine television today without hearing this:

Of course, I am worried that I will soon have to get my Law & Order fix watching reruns only (thank you, TNT!). 

What do you think? Do you prefer the original Law & Order, SVU, or Criminal Intent? Will SVU survive Meloni’s departure, or will this be the last of the L&O franchise?  I’d love to hear from you!

Now click over to Amber’s blog and check out her review of Harry’s Law.  The GTV ratings came to an end over here; will Amber award another top review over on her site?   

Come back next week when Amber and I switch over to FOX and review two supernatural programs – the new hit, Terra Nova, and the returning favorite, Fringe.

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on future Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday posts. 

A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more
MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies
JFTV (Junk food TV): It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds
SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out
NIV (Nyquil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer
LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech
 


 [t1]Opening narration spoken by Steven Zirnkilton

Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday – USA’s Spies and Suits

This week, Amber West and I switch gears and bring a double review of the hit shows on USA. 

Why? Because USA’s summer programming is so hot, we’ve decided the only way to do the network justice is by making this edition of Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday too hot to handle. 

Our double feature includes spies, suits, and sports – a triple threat.  Wait; since we’re both writing about two series, it’s technically a quadruple!  Right?

 Burn Notice

Why is Burn Notice white-hot? Sexy stars, massive explosions, and intricate plots combined with explorations of relationships between family members, best friends, and lovers make for some of the best programming on television today.

Burned by the U.S. government, former spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) wakes up bruised and sore in a run-down Miami motel with no memory of how he got there.   A burned spy has nothing – no job and no money.  It’s as if the last few years of Michael’s life didn’t even happen.  He takes on odd jobs as a private investigator to make some cash, and builds a team of former acquaintances, ex-girlfriends, and family to help him unravel the truth behind why the CIA black-listed him, and discover who was the mastermind behind his burn notice. 

Michael’s team consists of Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), a former Navy SEAL and friend who was forced to inform on Michael to the FBI; Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), Michael’s ex-lover, and a former IRA agent who doubles as an arms dealer and bounty hunter; Madeline Westen (Sharon Gless), Michael’s chain-smoking mother; and, the recent addition, Jesse Porter (Coby Bell), a former counterintelligence agent that Michael accidentally burned while uncovering truths behind his own burn notice.  

Burn Notice is one of the best, and definitely the sexiest shows on television; therefore, I have no other choice than to award the show with the highest #WatchWed review to date: GTV (Gourmet Television – Everything we want, and more!).  

To add fuel to the already smoking hot Burn Notice, Jeffrey Donovan might just be the sexiest man on TV.  Does anyone else make eating yogurt look so yummy?  When he throws on those sunglasses and flashes that crooked smile while wearing his designer suits, he has women melting in their living rooms across the U.S.  

 

Suits 

Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), a recently appointed senior partner at a Manhattan law firm, is instructed to hire another brilliant Harvard Law graduate to add to the associate pool, hopefully someone as bright as he is.  

Meanwhile, across town, Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) fastens his tie, grabs the briefcase filled with marijuana that his BFF has left for him, and heads to a hotel to make a drug deal yielding enough cash ($25,000) to keep his grandmother in her around-the-clock care nursing facility.  

What Mike doesn’t know, is that his low-life best friend is sending him to an undercover cop with his briefcase full of drugs.  Using his better judgment and brilliant observation skills, Mike picks up on the sting and ducks into Harvey’s interview room trying to avoid the cops chasing him.   

Intrigued by the young man with a briefcase full of pot, Harvey indulges and interviews Mike, learning that this young, brilliant man sitting across from him has an eidetic memory (perfect recall) when Mike recites blurbs of the Bar review materials with only the slightest provocation.  Despite the fact that Mike never graduated college, let alone law school, Harvey hires Mike on the spot. 

These two unconventional minds work together balancing the law and lying to everyone – now that’s conflict, right?  How long before the shunned junior associate (Louis Litt, played by Rick Hoffman), or the boss recently frustrated with Harvey’s refusal to follow her instructions (Jessica Pearson, played by Gina Torres) discover the truth? 

While it’s still early in the series, I give Suits a MacTV rating (MacNCheese TV: Guilty pleasure – Not perfect, but it satisfies) because I am looking forward to future episodes.  I can’t wait to see how long before anyone discovers the truth behind Harvey’s new star associate, and how the writers continue to develop this very unique story. 

Be sure and catch Burn Notice and Suits Thursday night on USA!

What do you think? Do you agree with my top rating for Burn Notice? Should Michael rejoin the CIA? What about Suits? Have you fallen victim to USA’s latest summer hit?  I’d love to hear from you!

Now – remember to visit Amber’s review of Covert Affairs, starring Piper Perabo as CIA Operative Annie Walker, and Necessary Roughness, starring Callie Thorne as therapist to the stars, Dr. Dani Santino. 

Come back next week when Amber and I switch over to the world of fantasy and review TNT’s Falling Skies and SyFy’s Alphas

Remember to stop by the #watchwed hashtag in Twitter to discuss any of today’s reviews, or to mention any television programs that you’d like to see on Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday in the future.  Amber and I would love to chat with you!

 A Recap of The WatchWed Review System:

GTV (Gourmet TV): Everything we want and more

MacTV (MacNCheese TV): Guilty pleasure. Not perfect, but is satisfies

JFTV (Junk food TV): It’s not great for us, but we’ll go back for seconds

SSTV (Still Simmering TV): It has potential, but the jury is still out

NIV (Nyquil Induced Viewing): Perfect for that late night television sleep timer

LOTV (Liver&Onions TV): Do we really have to explain? Blech