[06/24/11 - 04:45 PM]
The Futon's First Look: "Necessary Roughness" (USA)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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The network's description: ""Necessary Roughness" centers on Dr. Dani Santino (Callie Thorne) a Long Island psychotherapist whose personal life unravels when she finds her husband cheating. Diving fully into her work, she takes on the challenge of rehabbing a bad boy professional football player (Mehcad Brooks) whose off-the-field antics threaten his career and the team franchise. Underestimated at every turn, she succeeds beyond expectations and soon finds herself as the most sought-after therapist for high-profile clients. Athletes, entertainers, politicians and others living in the spotlight clamor for her unique brand of tough love therapy during their moments of crisis. Although her career is reenergized, it wreaks havoc on her life as a newly minted single mom of two teenagers. Recognizing her ability to change people's lives, she's determined to strike a balance between both worlds. The series also stars Marc Blucas and Scott Cohen.

Created and executive produced by Liz Kruger & Craig Shapiro ("Miami Medical," "The Challenge"). Kevin Dowling ("Sons of Tucson") directed the pilot and also serves as executive producer. Jeffrey Lieber ("Lost," "Chase") also serves as executive producer. Inspired by a true story, "Necessary Roughness" is a Sony Pictures Television and Universal Cable Productions co-production. "Necessary Roughness" shoots in Atlanta, Georgia."

What did they leave out? The show's original working title was "Dr. Donna." And as is custom with USA's pilots, the premiere runs an extended 63 minutes (not including commercials).

The plot in a nutshell: "My dad used to say life is like a football game," explains Long Island psychotherapist Dr. Dani Santino (Callie Thorne) in the opening narration. "There's winners. And there's losers... but no matter who you are, no matter how much protective gear you wear, at some point you're going to get the living crap kicked out of you." Such is the case for our heroine, whose seemingly idyllic suburban existence is shattered after learning her husband Ray (Craig Bierko) has been cheating on her with a half-dozen women. ("But less than Tiger Woods," her mother - played by Concetta Tomei - quips.)

Six weeks pass and Dani - after a night out with best friend Jeanette (Amanda Detmer) - finds an improbable rebound guy in Matthew (Marc Blucas), the head trainer for the New York Giants Hawks. He, after witnessing her psychotherapy skills first hand, suggests Dani work with the team's latest head case: Terrence "TK" King" (Mehcad Brooks), an all-star wide receiver who's developed a case of the butterfingers as of late plus is no stranger to a jail cell. Not surprisingly it's a battle to get TK to even see Dani, one that escalates even further after his initial session doesn't provide any results.

Soon enough dealing with TK becomes a full time job in itself, a fact not lost on her kids. They too have their issues as son Ray, Jr. (Patrick Johnson) has developed his father's unflattering knack for juggling women while daughter Lindsay (Hannah Marks) is regularly ditching school and in danger of failing out. And if that wasn't enough, Ray is contesting the divorce and hiring a private investigator to dig up dirt on her. Thankfully she has the team's fixer Nico (Scott Cohen) to help on the latter front as well as the always supportive Matthew in her corner. Together they just might get TK - and the team - back to their winning ways.

What works: It's nice to see Callie Thorne play against type as her Dani isn't a spurned sociopath, rather she's a stalwart wife, mom and career woman who gets pulled down by the riptide of both a devastating divorce and unexpected professional success. She makes Dani instantly and perennially likeable as she tries to hold her new status quo together. More than that however, it serves as a wake-up call for her personal life as things weren't nearly as easy and perfect as she previously thought, nor is she handling the ensuing fallout in the best way possible. Overall it gives Dani a nice arc looking forward and back on her life.

The supporting cast has their moments as well, my favorite being Cohen's Svengali-esque Nico who has no scruples beyond doing what's best for the team and its players. In general they're a likeable bunch, from Blucas's doggedly well-meaning Matthew to Brooks's quintessentially self-absorbed TK. It helps that everyone is given a few shades beyond the stock characters they're initially presented as. All in all, if you're a fan of USA's brand you'll definitely find something to like here.

What doesn't: The show seems to radio in Dani's talents rather than let us actually see them. If anything, all she really does to TK is be his friend rather than perform some extraordinary exorcism of his issues. Hell, all her only purported psychotherapy tactics either don't work or take place off screen (for instance, she magically gets Matthew to quit smoking). That's not to say Dani isn't an intriguing person or doesn't seem authentic, she just doesn't necessarily seem to have the unique bona fides she - and everyone else - says she does. Ultimately, Dani of course gets results - more or less rendering the aforementioned issues moot - I just wish all the tub-thumping was grounded in something more tangible.

The bottom line: A likeable cast, a likeable show.

  [june 2011]  


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