June 7, 2012



WHERE WE WERE:  Dr. Dani Santino (Callie Thorne) was a happy suburban wife and mother who provided therapy to a few clients on the side, when her entire life was disrupted by a nasty divorce that left her in need of a genuine paying job. She was brought in to help New York Hawks wide receiver TK King (Mehcad Brooks), who was having panic attacks, and when the team saw how well she’d handled TK, they hired her as their staff therapist, changing everything for her.  It led to her working with a variety of celebrities, but mostly athletes from all over the world of sports.  The new gig hasn’t hurt her personal life, either, as Dani–after a season of flirtation–became involved with Hawks trainer Matt Donnally (Marc Blucas).  Also lurking on that front is Nico Careles (Scott Cohen), the team’s sometimes-sinister “fixer” who has an ambiguous relationship with Dani.  The main dramatic event of the season finale was TK being shot in a bar after a Hawks game, his condition unclear.


WHERE WE ARE:  6 weeks have passed since the shooting, and TK is physically recovered, back in NY after healing in Florida.  All is not well for the Hawks, however, because the marriage of never-seen team owner Marshall Pittman is breaking up, causing financial havoc for the team in a way that is certainly meant to echo the McCourt divorce and its effect on the LA Dodgers.  Nico is trying to track down Pittman’s troubled daughter, who’s had drug problems in the past.  On the plus side, Dani’s relationship with Matt is still going strong.

The season premiere of Necessary Roughness, written by series creators Craig Shapiro and Liz Kruger and directed by Elodie Keene, saved its big unveiling for the final few minutes (so, mild Spoiler):  the never-seen Marshall Pittman has now been seen, in the person of the always-working Evan Handler.  From the looks of the promo that followed the episode, Pittman will be playing a substantial role in the new season, both in terms of personally running the Hawks and the relationships among the characters (he knows that Nico was involved with his soon-to-be-ex-wife).  It’s unclear why Pittman had to go through the elaborate ruse of setting up a false trail about his daughter for Nico to follow through the entire episode, but apparently that’s just the kind of millionaire he is.

The rest of the season premiere was very standard Roughness stuff.  Dani was the only one to see that while TK (who now wants to be called KT, for “King Terrence”–there goes any chance for a LeBron James guest spot) may be physically recovered, he was still a wreck emotionally.  Even though she’s invariably right, no one, particularly not TK’s sleazy agent (Rob Estes), would listen to her, until TK almost went berserk at a team event when a confetti cannon was fired in his direction, disaster only being averted by a quick-thinking Nico.  In the show’s least interesting element, Dani’s home life, her son “Ray Ray” (Patrick Johnson) hired an SAT tutor who turned out to be a hot senior, Dani walked in on the two of them in bed, and she wasn’t pleased.

The arena of big-time sports is one that television, surprisingly enough, has rarely tried to explore, and that gives Necessary Roughness a bit of distinctiveness that its plotting doesn’t often justify.  The show itself is little more than a procedural, with Dani curing a patient-of-the-week in every episode, the TK storyline providing some continuity.  It’s held together by Callie Thorne, a terrifically skilled actress operating here at about half of her capabilities (anyone who watched her on Rescue Me knows she can veer from crazy comedy to crazier drama on a dime).  Thorne brings warmth, maturity and snap timing to the part, and makes Roughness watchable.

USA Network churns out product with astonishingly consistent success, and Necessary Roughness performed very well for them last summer, with ratings that hovered in the low 1s.  Last night’s season premiere was paired with the network’s other medical-themed series Royal Pains (both were companion shows last season as well), and they were a bit subpar, with Roughness scoring a 0.8 rating.  The fact that they were competing against both NBA playoff and Stanley Cup final games may have hurt with the target audience, or the shows may just be eroding, although still at a fair level of success.  There’s no reason to think Roughness won’t continue as a roleplayer on USA’s team for some time to come.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."