Tuned In: Thorne is entertaining, believable in 'Necessary Roughness'
Anyone who watches actress Callie Thorne as crazy Sheila on FX's "Rescue Me" knows that she's a spitfire actress capable of portraying a broad swath of emotions. But what she gets to showcase most memorably on the soon-to-end "Rescue Me" is pure, unadulterated, off-the-charts rage, usually with a light, comic touch. Those two ingredients -- rage and comedy -- may seem incompatible but Ms. Thorne manages to pull it off and she brings the same go-for-broke performance to her new starring role in USA's "Necessary Roughness."
Debuting at 10 p.m. Wednesday with limited commercial interruptions following the third season premiere of "Royal Pains," "Necessary Roughness" does not veer far from the generally successful USA "blue sky" formula: Create an interesting, layered lead character and drop him or her into a fairly generic procedural-type show.
- 10 p.m. Wednesday, USA.
- Starring: Callie Thorne.
For "Necessary Roughness," Ms. Thorne is cast as Dr. Dani Santino, a Long Island psychotherapist who discovers her husband is cheating on her by the way he makes the bed in the guest room: She does box pleats, he makes the mistake of using hospital corners. These early scenes are the show's most impressive moments because Ms. Thorne makes her character's attention to detail completely believable. You buy this character and her life.
The same is true of any scenes between Dani and her gambling addict mother (recurring guest star Concetta Tomei, "China Beach"). "Necessary Roughness" creators Liz Kruger and Craig Shapiro, who wrote the premiere episode, create some wonderfully witty banter for the pair, who lob lines back and forth like they're at Wimbledon.
"You bet my Sweet 16 money on the horses," Dani complains.
"And won!" her mother replies. "That's how we got the microwave."
In these scenes, "Necessary Roughness" tries to escape the USA conformist pull but when the show's franchise elements come to the fore gravity kicks in and drags the show back down to planet USA.
Dani -- while still voluble, she's less volatile than Sheila -- goes to a bar with a friend and hooks up with Matthew (Marc Blucas, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), who works for a professional football team. He enlists Dani in treating a star player, TK (Mehcad Brooks, "True Blood"), who's having trouble catching the football. TK's a jerk with issues and he resists Dani's treatment at first, then he maybe makes a breakthrough, then he backslides. If you've ever watched a USA show, you know where the plot will go next. These shows don't typically have downer endings.
The darkest "Necessary Roughness" gets is when it deals with Dani's teenage children, who seem like an afterthought at first but evidently will play a fairly prominent role in the series. Dani almost hits her bratty, ill-behaved daughter at one low point, but it's really just a set up for redemption later in the episode.
It's a little difficult to imagine what the show's plots will be on a weekly basis. The pilot already covers some predictable ground when the coach demands to know what's being said in TK's therapy session (has he never watched a TV show where doctor-patient confidentiality is discussed?). Even if every player on the team is in need of therapy -- that seems doubtful -- "Necessary Roughness" would run through them all in about two seasons.
The show also hints at the possibility of a love triangle involving Dani, Matthew and a mysterious team fixer (Scott Cohen, "Gilmore Girls").
But if plot is incidental to your enjoyment of a show -- and especially if you're already a fan of Ms. Thorne's all-in acting style -- then "Necessary Roughness" offers OK entertainment.
First Published June 26, 2011 12:00 am