Kicking off Summer TV
I like TV. There, I said it. I’m a fan of quite a few shows, and I can really appreciate a well-written narrative. In many cases, the longer form allows characters and plot lines to develop in a way that outshines what can be done in films, with their time constraints.
A good example of this is “House,” which just wrapped up its eighth and final season with a run of excellent episodes that showed off the relationships and history of the characters. The fact that Gregory House, played to perfection by British actor Huge Laurie, was a sympathetic character, despite his foibles and the way he treated those around him, was a testament to good, challenging writing.
Television doesn’t have to be simplistic, simpering nonsense. I’m not saying there’s not a place for mindless entertainment—I can get trapped by an episode of “Bridezillas” faster than you can say “It’s My Wedding!”—but well-written stories elevate the art form and challenge the viewer.
“Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abby,” “Justified,” and other shows that transport the viewer to another time and place would not be so riveting were it not for the twisting, interweaving plot lines and deep character development that are the hallmarks of good episodic writing.
Summer is upon us and the USA network has done something rare—created a stable of shows that are unique, entertaining, and well-written. I’ll highlight four favorites that are returning over the next two weeks:
Royal Pains (June 9, 9pm): Hank Lawson (Mark Feuerstein) is a concierge doctor in the Hamptons, doctor-on-demand to a town full of wealthy patients. Together with his brother Evan (Paulo Costanzo) and physician’s assistant Divya (Reshma Shetty), they formed a small practice known as HankMed, but they’re running into growing pains as Hank wants to continue providing excellent care to a small client base, while his brother is more interested in expanding the company.
Necessary Roughness (June 9, 10pm): Callie Thorne plays Dr. Dani Santino, a psychotherapist and recently divorced mother of two teens. Falling backward into the world of sports psychology, she’s soon analyzing a whole gaggle of pro athletes and high-profile clients, including an ego-driven wide receiver. Dani’s not afraid to use her own unique brand of hands-on therapy to get inside her patients’ minds. I enjoy the psychological aspects of this show—I minored in Psych in college—and it’s fun to watch “Dr. Dani” rub elbows with bratty athletes and their frustrated coaches and handlers.
Burn Notice (June 14, 9pm): On cable’s top-rated show and the best spy show on TV, Michael Weston (Jeffrey Donovan) did not retire from the CIA; he was “burned,” or kicked out. While working to clear his name and get back into the good graces of the agency, he was forced to become a spy-for-hire, using his unique set of skills to help local people in desperate situations. He’s aided by his ex-girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and the buddy that turned him in, Sam (Bruce Campbell).
Mixing James Bond and MacGyver, Michael almost always comes out on top, sometimes with the aid of his mother, played by Sharon Gless, best known as “Cagney” from “Cagney and Lacey.” Last season was rocky as Micheal was drawn back into the CIA after clearing his name—let’s hope the show can get back on track.
Suits (June 14, 10pm): The second season of this legal drama premieres June 14. I had sworn off all cop and lawyer shows due their massive overpopulation, but this show comes at the legal profession from a different angle. Mike Ross (Patrick Adams) is not a lawyer or law student—he’s a college drop-out. But he’s hired as a legal assistant by Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), one of New York City’s brightest legal minds and senior partner at Pearson Hardman. That’s because Mike has something other law students are lacking: a photographic memory.
Now Mike works for Harvey, pursing cases and bringing the lawless to justice, often because Mike can recall some obscure fact or legal ruling he read long ago. The cases are interesting and the characters fascinating.
What do you consider excellent TV? Write me at email@example.com or visit my website at www.gregenslen.com.