Tag Archives: USA Network

Passmore gives ample Satisfaction on USA Network

Matt Passmore and Stephanie Szostak

Matt Passmore and Stephanie Szostak star as a restless married couple in USA Network’s excellent new drama ‘Satisfaction,’ which premieres Thursday.

When first we meet Neil Truman (Matt Passmore) in Satisfaction, the excellent new USA Network drama series premiering Thursday night, he’s deep in a midlife funk, and he can’t understand why. After all, he has an 80-inch 3D TV in his luxurious home, which he shares with his beautiful wife of 18 years, Grace (Stephanie Szostak), and their 16-year-old daughter, Anika (Michelle DeShon), an aspiring musician.
As he enters his 40s, though, Neil is growing more aware that his all-consuming job as an investment banker isn’t leaving any time for family or fun of any kind, really. Working 70 hours a week in a job he is starting to hate, Neil tries to grab odd moments at his desk to read a book on Zen principles, hoping to restore some order to his life, but when his abrasive boss (Spencer Garrett) orders him with little notice to fly to New York to work over the weekend, Neil has a little breakdown on the airplane that is captured for posterity and posted on YouTube.
After an explosive leave-taking from his boss, Neil arrives home much earlier than expected and discovers Grace having a steamy encounter with Simon (Blair Redford), who, we soon will learn, is a paid escort – and, more to the point, a paid escort who accidentally leaves his cell phone behind. Stunned and shaken by Grace’s infidelity, Neil is in a vulnerable place when that phone rings, a call from one of Simon’s clients confirming their amorous appointment in one hour at a nearby hotel.
I don’t want to reveal much more than that about Satisfaction, which kept surprising and delighting me during its first episode. The promos have made the show look somber and heavy, but while it’s true the characters of Satisfaction are playing for some high emotional stakes, the drama unfolds with flashes of the kind of unexpected, out-of-left-field comedy that is a fact of most lives. And that, in brief, is what I love most about Satisfaction, the way it feels loose, unpredictable and a little messy, just like life.
When we get to the scene in which Neil discovers Grace with her paid playmate, the narrative abruptly jumps back six months, to show us how Grace got to this reckless juncture in a marriage she still values with a man she still loves. While Neil has spent the past several years buried in his work, Grace – a once-promising designer who had been forced to give up a scholarship to study abroad when she got pregnant with Anika – has seen her life limited to mornings at the gym and evenings in a book club where the members are far more interested in swilling wine than talking about literature, or life in any larger sense. Now that Anika is nearly an adult, Grace has tried to find work in the design field, only to be told that – metaphor alert! – she lacks life experience.
By the end of Thursday’s pilot, Satisfaction has admirably sketched in the back story of this couple who sense they are drifting apart yet have no real notion how to stop that drift. Grace has no idea that Neil saw her with Simon, partly because Neil frankly doesn’t know how to broach the subject with her. Neil also isn’t sure where Grace stands in terms of their marriage. Is she preparing to leave him?
Szostak shrewdly uses a light touch in her scenes, skirting soapiness while showing us the escalating tension Grace is feeling just under her calm surface. As good as the actress is, however, Passmore is an absolute revelation. The Aussie-born actor broke out as police detective Jim Longworth in A&E’s The Glades, but his performance here is on a whole new level. Passmore looks like he could be a Hollywood action stud, but he gives Neil a fumbling lack of confidence, a vulnerability, that I haven’t seen from him before. When Neil stumbles on Grace and her lover, his first reaction is to fight back his overwhelming urge to vomit, and he momentarily seems to lose control of his body, as if he can’t quite remember how to get his arms and legs moving in sync. It’s just a great performance, tentative, sweet, a little frightened and often sadly funny. I have a feeling spending time with Neil Truman this summer is going to provide a lot of satisfaction to USA Network viewers.
If only that were true of the main character in Rush, a new medical drama that immediately precedes Satisfaction on Thursday night. British actor Tom Ellis stars as Dr. William Rush, who used to be the top attending surgeon at a leading Los Angeles hospital before his fast-lane lifestyle caused him to crash and burn. That debacle cost Rush his job, his relationship with his father (Harry Hamlin), and his romance with beautiful hospital colleague Sarah Peterson (Odette Annable, House).
That was six years ago. Now Rush makes a comfortable living providing a private doctor service to a rich but shady clientele. Forget the Hippocratic Oath. When Rush runs into a person in medical distress, he negotiates a hefty payment up front, usually in cash, before he’ll render assistance.
Rush is, in other words, what is known in medical jargon as “a giant tool.” As Thursday’s premiere opens, he’s snorting vast quantities of cocaine with a blonde party girl, who overdoses and has a heart attack. After Rush brings her around with a portable defibrillator, he drops her at the hospital where his best friend, Dr. Alex Burke (Larenz Tate), works, pausing only to size up a comely new staff worker before dashing off into the night.
Alex is one of three very decent people we meet in the first episode who, for reasons that escape me, treat Rush with kindness and loyalty. The other two are Eva (Sarah Habel), his resourceful assistant, and his old flame Sarah, who has returned to L.A. after undergoing a double mastectomy.
Ellis is a really splendid actor who can deliver highly technical medical jargon at breakneck speed in a very credible American accent, yet I watched the first episode looking for some reason I should care about Rush. He shows up high on coke at a birthday party for his little godson (Alex’s son), shocks some of the guests by demanding a cocktail at this kiddy function, then adjourns to the bathroom to smoke a joint. Is this someone you would want to have in your life, or even spend an hour with each week via your TV?
By the end of the series premiere, Rush has had a couple of scary encounters that may have opened his eyes to how big a train wreck he is. Or maybe not. Time will tell. I like the cast enough to give Rush a couple more weeks to see if this empty suit of a character starts to grow a soul. Maybe he could borrow Neil Truman’s book on Zen, but he – or, more accurately, the screenwriters – need to take some serious measures, stat, or this show is going to flatline in no time at all.
Tom Ellis and Larenz Tate in 'Rush.'

Tom Ellis and Larenz Tate star in ‘Rush,’ premiering Thursday on USA Network.

Meloni mines for laughs in Fox’s Surviving Jack

"Surviving Jack" premieres tonight on Fox.

Dr. Jack Dunlevy (Christopher Meloni, right) shares a rare supportive moment with his teenage son, Frankie (Connor Buckley), in “Surviving Jack,” premiering tonight on Fox.

Surviving Jack, a new sitcom premiering tonight on Fox, gives Christopher Meloni a chance to show off his formidable comedy chops after intense dramatic turns in HBO’s prison saga Oz and NBC’s long-running police drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Based on an autobiographical book by Justin Halpern and set in 1991, Surviving Jack stars Meloni as gruff oncologist Dr. Jack Dunlevy, who has decided to cut back his hours at his clinic so he can take over parenting his two teenage kids while his wife, Joanne (Rachael Harris), pursues her long-delayed dream of law school. Their daughter, Rachel (Claudia Lee), is mildly irritated by this household change, but her younger brother, high-school freshman Frankie (Connor Buckley), frets that his dad, an ex-military man, will now have even more opportunities to make his life difficult.
That’s a rational concern, given that Jack has been known to send his son out to run laps in the middle of the night and plants a large box of condoms in Frankie’s booksack to embarrass him at school. And while Jack dotes on his wife, he seems to harbor more ambivalent feelings toward Frankie.
“I love that woman,” Jack sighs, watching Joanne leave for class. “If an asteroid were to hit this Earth, and she and I were the only two people left alive, I’d be OK.”
“What about me?” Frankie asks.
“Well, obviously, there would be a grieving period,” Jack replies. “I’m not an ass.”
Halpern previously adapted another book into the ill-fated CBS sitcom euphemistically called Bleep My Dad Says, which also featured a crusty father figure who was a doctor, played on that show by William Shatner. Surviving Jack is a far more polished sitcom that makes even better use of its time period than ABC’s similarly themed The Goldbergs (there’s a funny running gag about Michael Crichton’s then-red-hot book Jurassic Park recurring in tonight’s pilot episode).
It helps, too, that Meloni has the good sense to underplay Jack’s bluntness. The character never shouts at his children, he just doesn’t mince any words or waste any tact in dealing with them.
My only concern is that tonight’s premiere seems to be too much of a one-trick pony that depends too much on ways that Jack benignly tortures Frankie. Some of it is laugh-out-loud funny, but I hope Surviving Jack will develop more of an ensemble feel in the weeks to come. Certainly Harris, a sitcom staple who also has a hilarious recurring role on USA Network’s Suits, is far too bright a comedy performer to remain stuck in the role of a largely absent mom. Buckley also is a real find as Frankie, although it’s stretching credibility to buy him as a freshman in high school.
Those minor quibbles aside, the prospects of Jack surviving look pretty good right now.
"Surviving Jack" on Fox.

Rachael Harris stars with Christopher Meloni in “Surviving Jack,” tonight on Fox.

Lady Catelyn Stark ‘Suits’ up tonight

Patrick J. Adams and Michelle Fairley
I’ve been a huge fan of Suits ever since the USA Network legal dramedy made its debut in 2011, but I’m especially thrilled that season three of the series, which begins tonight, includes two popular alumni from HBO’s megahit Game of Thrones.
Michelle Fairley – who played fan favorite Catelyn Stark until her character went to the worst wedding ever in the most recent Thrones season – joins Suits tonight for a story arc as Ava Hessington, a British petroleum executive facing bribery charges relating to an undisclosed oil spill, whose fate rests in the resourceful hands of Harvey Spector (Gabriel Macht), the shark-like star litigator at the newly christened Pearson Darby law firm. The case comes to Harvey via newly installed senior partner Edward Darby (Conleth Hill, who continues to play wily Lord Varys on Game of Thrones), the British entrepreneur who last season helped Jessica Pearson (Gina Torres) fend off a hostile takeover by longtime nemesis Daniel Hardman.
Unfortunately, the collateral damage of that merger included the workplace bromance of Harvey and his protégé Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams, who, like Macht, now is a co-producer on the series), which foundered when Jessica blackmailed Mike into undercutting Harvey’s attempt to block the merger. As this season opens, Harvey is gritting his teeth and continuing to work at the firm, but he’s still hurt and angry that Mike stabbed him in the back.
Meanwhile, Mike has another big challenge on his hands with girlfriend/coworker Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle), who is seething after Mike confessed to her in the season two finale that his Harvard law degree is completely bogus. Her hostility is fueled by the realization that he has been lying to her for as long as she has known him, as well as the fact that, in her eyes, his phony Ivy League degree grants him a professional pedigree she has sought long but unsuccessfully herself. And now Rachel has the means to destroy Mike’s career completely.
In other words, series creator Aaron Korsh, who wrote tonight’s teleplay, has aligned several story elements this season that look both promising and provocative. Add to that the supremely funny supporting work by comedy MVPs Sarah Rafferty as Harvey’s fiercely devoted secretary, Donna Paulsen, and Rick Hoffman as fussy firm partner Louis Litt and you have the makings of potentially the best Suits season yet.
For fans of the show who want to enhance their Suits experience even further, USA Network today launches Suits Recruits: Class Action, a multi-platform social game in which players assume the role of first-year associates at Pearson Darby, where they deal with office power struggles and intrigue while helping to solve a new case. You can get started in the game by visiting www.suitsrecruits.com. At the end of each day’s game, the interactive fun continues on Twitter, where fans can “chat” with the show’s characters in real time.
SUITS -- Episode 112 -- Photo by: Christos Kalohoridis/USA Network
Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams, from left

House of lies

Aaron Tveit
“There are no secrets in Graceland,” one of FBI newbie Mike Warren’s (Aaron Tveit) undercover colleagues tells him in tonight’s premiere of USA Network’s provocative new drama. The agent in question, Catherine “Charlie” DeMarco (Vanessa Ferlito, CSI: NY), probably isn’t willfully lying – she’s mainly talking about how close-knit the diverse folks who share a luxurious California beach house are – but she’s definitely stretching the truth.
If you’ve seen any of the gazillion promos USA has been running for the show, you’d be forgiven if you were tempted to dismiss Graceland as a contrived and ludicrous hybrid of Baywatch and a gritty cop drama such as The Shield. In fact, however, series creator Jeff Eastin (White Collar) based this new series on an actual beachfront property the U.S. Government seized in 1992 and really did use as an undercover residence for federal agents of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Customs until 2001.
In the series, Graceland – which got its nickname from the Elvis-obsessed drug kingpin who previously owned the property – is where Mike is assigned fresh out of graduating top of his class at Quantico. He’s a little stunned to be here, having expected a position in Washington, D.C., but he’s here to train with Paul Briggs (Daniel Sunjata, Rescue Me), a senior FBI agent with a formidable track record (and, he notes smugly, even higher test scores than Mike got). In addition to Paul, Mike and the aforementioned Charlie, Graceland’s other current residents include Johnny Tuturro (Manny Montana), a fun-loving prankster with Navy SEAL training; Dale “DJ” Jakes (Brandon Jay McLaren), a hot-headed U.S. Customs agent who hates it when his roommates touch his “stuff”; and Paige Arkin (Serinda Small), a DEA undercover agent who views Mike warily, since he’s moving into the room previously occupied by her regular partner, currently sidelined after a drug deal gone wrong.
As Paul is quick to remind Mike, they are all in a career that calls on them to lie for a living, keeping their activities a secret from their friends and loved ones. Viewers soon discover, however, just about everyone in Graceland is harboring secrets of their own – including Mike, who will discover at the end of his first day why his FBI bosses really sent him to Southern California.
Tveit, a Broadway musical star who played the student revolutionary Enjolras in the big-screen Les Miserables, is being touted as USA Networks’ next great white hottie, but he’s got a lot more going for him than superficial good looks. Maybe it’s partly because he starred as celebrated con artist Frank Abagnale Jr. in the Broadway musical Catch Me If You Can, but the actor makes an uncommonly polished TV series debut in this demanding role as a guy whose life depends on getting others to believe he is someone he is not. He also has a relaxed chemistry with Sunjata, which helps keep their characters from falling into the stereotypes of by-the-book rookie and more pragmatic veteran. Among the other players, Ferlito is a knockout as the chameleon-like Charlie.
Based on the three episodes I’ve seen, Graceland looks like one of the most interesting shows USA has fielded to date. It’s also a bit darker than most of the rest of the USA lineup, but that’s a good thing, as far as I am concerned.
Airing immediately before Graceland, Burn Notice, one of USA’s first major success stories in the scripted drama genre, begins its 7th and final season in somber style. Out of respect for a show that has given fans a lot of pleasure over the years with its intricate, action-packed episodes, let me just say that tonight’s premiere – and next week’s episode, the show’s 100th – suggest that it’s time to say goodbye.
Up to now, Burn Notice has managed to hold our attention despite following a fairly standard formula each season: Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) chases a Very Bad Person who is somehow linked to Michael’s current career crisis as a “burned” (discredited) spy, only to discover, as a rule, that someone even worse is waiting behind the next door. Last season, Michael shot and killed an unspeakably vile U.S. official (guest star John C. McGinley) who was responsible for the murder of Michael’s kid brother, landing Michael and his friends in such hot water that, this season, he is forced to do off-the-books undercover work for the CIA to keep them all out of prison.
Unfortunately, that new premise keeps Michael segregated from the rest of his extended family – former fiancée Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), best friend Sam (Bruce Campbell), tech wizard Jesse (Coby Bell), and mom Maddie (Sharon Gless), a once-feisty character who now spends most of her time dithering and whining. I’m sure the writers probably have contrived a way to bring all these characters back together as this final season unfolds, but the delightfully snappy interplay among these once-vivid characters feels as if it’s been irretrievably broken. That’s sad, because while it was firing on all cylinders, Burn Notice almost always was a blast – one that didn’t rely entirely on Fiona’s penchant for C-4.
Jeffrey Donovan

Gay on the gridiron

The phrase “a very special episode” usually makes me break out in hives, but Necessary Roughness delivers an interesting look at the issue of homosexuality in major league sports in a two-part story arc premiering tonight on USA Network.
For any readers inclined to shriek, “Spoiler alert!,” be forewarned: I’m about to reveal a couple of story points, but (a) USA is hardly making a secret that tonight’s episode deals with the revelation that a member of the show’s fictional team, the New York Hawks, is gay and (b), unless you’re paying no attention at all, you’ll know which player it is within the first few minutes of the episode. OK. Final warning.
The closeted player, we quickly learn, is quarterback Rex Evans (guest star Travis Smith), whom we first met in last week’s episode but who, based on dialogue, has been playing for the Hawks for some time now. Rex is a golden boy, but recently his on-field performance has taken a dive because, as star shrink Dani Santino (Callie Thorne) soon susses out, Rex’s beau-on-the-down-low (guest star Neil Hopkins) is sick of living in the shadows and living in fear of paparazzi.
As Rex nervously ponders his boyfriend’s ultimatum to come out or lose him, the show examines how much it would cost a player still in the middle of an active career to reveal that he isn’t straight.
“I don’t want to be Jackie Robinson,” Rex says to Dani, reluctant to be the first pro football star to leave the closet. “I just want to play ball.”
Next week’s episode continues the story as guest star Jeffrey Nordling appears as a public relations expert hired to coordinate Rex’s revelation, but as everyone quickly learns, it’s all but impossible to control information in a Twitter-driven world of instant news, where a rumor can fly around the world in a nanosecond.
Although Necessary Roughness is set in the greater New York City area, the show is filmed in Atlanta, where featured guest actor Smith is a fast-rising star on the local theater scene. Although the series often uses Atlanta actors in supporting character parts, Smith is among the first “hometown boys” who has bagged such a pivotal role and he really delivers, conveying both Rex’s macho bluster and his private vulnerability. There’s typically strong work from core players Thorne, Marc Blucas and Scott Cohen as well.
It’ll be interesting to see whether we ever see or hear mention of Rex in the future, if USA orders another season of this series. One of the peculiar features of most “very special episodes” is that they often revolve around a character who has a seismic impact on the lives of the main characters, yet somehow is never heard from again.