Necessary Roughness reviewed: A fine summer show combining therapy, pro football, and Long Island.

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June 29 2011 11:26 PM

Necessary Roughness

A fine summer show combining therapy, pro football, and Long Island.

Hannah Marks as Lindsay Santino, Callie Thorne as Danielle Santino. Click image to expand.
Necessary Roughness

The USA Network continues its successful run of producing featherweight hourlong entertainments—more a gambol than a run, really—with Necessary Roughness (Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET). Light as foamed skim milk and tasty as almond syrup, such series as Burn Notice, Royal Pains, and Suits amount to nimble operettas and pass handsomely for summer refreshment. In the tradition of those shows, the characters here are sets of quirks coating round-ish personalities. As if combining Analyze This, Any Given Sunday, and any random dramedy about a professional-class working mother, Necessary Roughness centers on the relationship between a blingy pro-football player and his brassy therapist. Your heroine is Dr. Dani Santino (Callie Thorne, who played Elena McNulty on The Wire and Sheila Keefe on Rescue Me). Dani is a Long Island mental-hygiene professional specializing in hypnotherapy. She is quick and tough, with a blue-collar kind of bluntness and a Williams-Sonoma sort of kitchen. Her middle-aged suburban hotness, slightly redolent of late-'90s Jeanine Pirro, bespeaks well-earned self-pampering at the Roosevelt Field Mall. Dani is the only person in her household who is not gravely oversexed. Her daughter, tarting herself up for mornings at school and afternoons of truancy, dresses as provocatively as a prostitute, in Dani's words. (Specifically, she tells the girl, in one of many nicely honed wisecracks, that she can wear an offending crop top out of the house "when you are making a living as a hooker.") Meanwhile, Dani's son is a dirty dog juggling many girlfriends—but not quite as many as Dani's husband, it turns out. Redressing this imbalance while divorce proceedings are still at the exciting early stage of process service and spluttering acrimony, Dani hooks up with a guy she meets in a bar. The morning after, it turns out that a she's got both a love interest and a central conflict. Dani's new friend is the trainer for a pro-football franchise whose all-star wide receiver has lost the ability to hold onto a football. Should this be called reception block? Catch fright? His character is named Terrence King and nicknamed TK, to the amused annoyance of editors of articles about this show. The actor in the role is Mehcad Brooks, who, despite appearances on True Blood and Desperate Housewives, is perhaps most famous for playing a shirtless hot guy in a commercial for an insurance company. His abs perform solidly here, as does the rest of him, as he brings this neurotic jock to life. The loud jewelry, the nightclub fistfights, the tantrums of swagger, the foolish grinning charm, the joyless groupie-doing—TK presents many of your favorite quirks of your least favorite NFL players and vice versa. After agreeing to treat TK, Dr. Dani swiftly identifies relevant mommy issues, and Necessary Roughness thereby announces its twist to the special charge in the cross-gender therapist-patient relationship. But TK is not trying to hear that, and he goes AWOL, rematerializes in the champagne room of a multi-level strip club. A field trip is made, tough love administered, the big game won. The daughter supports the mother; the mother supports the new surrogate son. A fine summer show is launched, slick but with feeling, and all the orange-and-red football-season foliage on-screen contributes to a diverting brisk breeziness.

Troy Patterson is Slate's writer at large and writes the Gentleman Scholar column.

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