The Light from the TV Shows: On the Set with “Necessary Roughness”

Raise your hand if, when you first heard about the USA Network series “Necessary Roughness,” the first thought that came to mind was this 1991 film:

Uh-huh. That’s exactly what I thought.

Oh, fine, so I couldn’t see how many people raised their hands. I still refuse to believe that I’m the only one whose mind went down that road, though I admit that it’s possible I was the only one who was also thinking, “You might, I might actually watch that…” Not that it was a great film, but it had a pretty interesting cast (Scott Bakula, Jason Bateman, Hector Elizondo, Robert Loggia, Larry Miller, Sinbad, and Rob Schneider), and the college-football-team premise is one that would be easy to pick up 20 years after the fact.

But, no, USA’s “Necessary Roughness,” while also about football, instead revolves around Dr. Dani Santino (Callie Thorne), a divorcée who reluctantly takes on a job as a therapist for a pro football team – the fictional New York Hawks – in an effort to keep herself and her children  afloat financially. After settling into the gig, Dani’s success with the Hawks combined with a significantly increased profile lead to a sudden influx of new and equally high-profile patients. In addition to Thorne, who you may remember from her roles on “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “The Wire,” and “Rescue Me,” the show has several other familiar faces within its cast, including Marc Blucas (Riley Finn on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) as Hawks athletic trainer Matthew Donnally, Scott Cohen (Max Medina on “Gilmore Girls”) as Nico Careles, the team’s ex-SEAL head of security, and Mehcad Brooks (Eggs on “True Blood”) as T.K. King, the Hawks’ star player.

What’s that? You say you’re intrigued and want to know what you missed during the show’s first season? Wow, good thing USA thought ahead and put together the perfect collection of clips to summarize the first 12 episodes for you…

A few weeks back, USA was kind enough to offer me the opportunity to head down to the “Necessary Roughness” set, tour the facility, and meet with Thorne, Cohen, and Brooks. Each of these fine folks sat down with myself and my fellow TV critics, bloggers, and interviewers (I’m just trying to cover all the bases to avoid missing out on someone’s favorite term for themselves) and chatted about their work on the series thus far and what viewers can expect from the second season of “Necessary Roughness,” which premieres – yikes! – tonight at 10 PM.

That’s fine, go ahead and run set your DVR now, so you don’t forget. But rush right back, because the highlights of those on-set conversations are coming right up…

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Bullz-Eye’s 2011 Fall TV Preview: What’s New for ABC

Tuesday

Last Man Standing

(8 – 8:30 PM, Oct. 11)

The competition: NCIS (CBS), The Biggest Loser (NBC), Glee (Fox), 90210 (The CW)
Starring: Tim Allen, Nancy Travis, Kaitlyn Dever, Molly Ephraim, Alexandra Krosney, Christoph Sanders, Hector Elizondo

Executive producers: JackBurditt, Tim Allen, Marty Adelstein, Becky Clements, Shawn Levy, Richard Baker and Rick Messina

What the network says: “You can’t get manlier than Mike Baxter. He loves to have adventures while he’s traveling for work and, of course, he drives a pick-up truck. But Mike is about to find out that it’s not a man’s world anymore. While he might be king of the hill at work at an iconic outdoor sporting goods store, he’s the odd man out in a home dominated by his wife and three daughters. Today it’s a woman’s world, and this man’s man is on a mission to get men back to their rightful place in society. After being a stay-at-home mom for years, Mike’s wife, Vanessa, recently returned to the workplace and was quickly promoted — much to the dismay of her primarily male co-workers. Now that Vanessa’s work load has increased, Mike is pulled into more hands-on parenting than ever before. With things turned upside down at home, Mike’s last bastion of sanity – work – gets hit by change as well; his long-time boss and friend, Ed, announces that he’s grounding Mike from their catalogue’s international photo shoots and putting him in charge of the company’s webpage. But while adjusting to this new role, Mike discovers that the Internet might actually provide him just the outlet he needs, a platform that gives him a voice to appeal to those who agree that manliness is under assault, and a pulpit for his opinions about feeling like the last real man in a woman’s world. After all, men built civilizations, invented the locomotive and created ESPN, and Mike Baxter is determined to do what he must to reclaim his manly place in his home and at his job.”

What we say: It’s kind of hard to criticize “Last Man Standing” for having almost exactly the same mainstream manly-man tone as “Home Improvement” when Tim Allen freely admits that it’s something he’s making a conscious effort to re-stake his old territory. You can, however, criticize the series for not being very funny. Sure, it’s funny in a Tim Allen kind of way, but…oh, this way lies madness, so let’s just cut to the chase: basically, if you like broad comedy about a guy’s guy who’s annoyed with the fact that his brand of man is a dying breed, then you’ll like this show. I laughed a couple of times, but as I am not now nor have I ever been a guy’s guy, I walked away with little or no interest in ever watching another episode…which, come to think of it, is almost exactly the way I’ve always felt about “Home Improvement.” Based on this info, you can probably make your own judgement call as to whether or not you’ll have any interest in tuning in.

Man Up

(8:30 – 9 PM, Oct. 18)

The competition: NCIS (CBS), The Biggest Loser (NBC), Glee (Fox), 90210 (The CW)

Starring: Mather Zickel, Dan Fogler, Christopher Moynihan, Teri Polo, Amanda Detmer, Henry Simmons, Jake Johnson, Charlotte Labadie

Executive producers: Christopher Moynihan, Victor Fresco (“Better Off Ted”), and Ron West and Kelly Kulchak

What the network says: “Three modern male archetypes struggle as they search for their identities and try to prove that ‘real men’ really can use hazelnut creamer. Meet Will. Will’s grandfather fought in WWII. Will’s father fought in Vietnam. Will plays Call of Duty on his PS3 and drinks non-dairy hazelnut creamer. So what happened to all the real men? They’re still here — they just smell like pomegranate body wash now. Will’s evolved, sensitive nature is why his awesome wife, Theresa, married him. But he and his friends find themselves wondering… In a world of Axe ads and manscaping, what does it really mean to be a guy anymore? Will is more interested in finding the perfect gift for his son Nathan’s 13th birthday than in doing his job selling insurance; sensitive soul Craig still pines for his college ex, Lisa; and Kenny clamps down on his anger and asks himself, ‘What would Tobey Maguire do?,’ when his ex, Bridgette, starts seeing a guy who is everything he’s not and much better looking. After Craig crashes Lisa’s wedding to try to win her back, all three are faced with an opportunity to ‘man up’ and be like their forefathers.”

What we say: I swear it’s not because the lead character’s name is Will, but…I actually like this better than “Last Man Standing,” even though it’s ultimately covering a certain amount of the same ground. I think you can probably attribute that to executive producer Victor Fresco, whose presence always guarantees that the series won’t be 100% commercial. Speaking of ground that’s already been trod upon, there’s also an undeniable similarity between “Man Up” and Fox’s late, lamented mid-season series “Traffic Light.” (That’s not a bad thing for me, though, as I loved the series.) As for the cast, there are really only two matinee names: Teri Polo, of the “Meet the Parents” franchise, and Dan Fogler, who’s one of those guys who can take things so far over the top that he presents a major love-him-or-hate-him vibe. It must be said, though, that he pulls the majority of the biggest laughs in the pilot. As far as putting this alongside “Last Man Standing,” I don’t know if that’s a great move or not, since the similar premises will likely viewers to suspect that if they don’t like one, then they won’t like the other, but it’s not true: “Man Up” may not be spectacular, but it’s ten times funnier than its lead-in.

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