I have this bizarre sort of love affair with the USA Network. Which is incredibly frustrating, what with living in Canada and all.
It all started last year. Well, actually, I suppose it all started about 4 years ago, but the true passion I feel didn’t really ignite until last year. See, 4 years ago I started watching a little show called Burn Notice, about a former spy who gets fired, or “burned” as it’s referred to in the spy game (That’s right, I’m all up on the lingo!) and must now resort to being a “problem fixer” for various people in Miami while trying to clear his name with the government. And I will freely admit, there was one reason and one reason only I downloaded the premiere: Bruce Campbell. Bruce Campbell is one of those actors that helped define my childhood. He was Ash, he was Virgil from McHale’s Navy, he was Autolycus from Xena and Hercules, he was Jack of All Trades… He was a legend. Big chin, big swagger, big fun. So the idea of him being on my TV (or computer screen, as it were) once a week was positively thrilling. So, I tuned in. My first reaction (besides, “Awwww, he got old :(“) was, “That guy from Blair Witch 2! The mom from Queer as Folk! That chick from that movie with diving horses! BEST CAST EVER!” As the show progressed, I slowly but surely fell in love. Michael Westen and his merry band of former spies were characters I quickly became invested in. Why was Michael burned? Who can he trust? And how can I get dresses like Fiona’s? It was one of the first shows I can recall handling the procedural concept of a new case every week, but still keep the overall mythology and continuity of the series in check with equal measure. (Showcase recently picked up Burn Notice in syndication in Canada, I definitely recommend it if you like action/comedy series’)
Cut to last year: I can’t recall which show I gave a gander to first: In Plain Sight, Royal Pains, or White Collar. I do know that at one point, I was watching all three voraciously and gobbling up every torrent I could find so I could get myself caught up with the series’. In Plain Sight – about a Marshal in the Witness Protection Program – quickly became my favourite. Not only did it star West Wing alumni Mary McCormack, but Fred Weller who plays her partner Marshall was my new TV crush. And Lesley Ann Warren plays her crazy, boozy mother! Amazing! On top of that, I found the stories incredibly engaging and the guest stars really enjoyable. Oh, hey there, pretty much half the cast of West Wing! So good to see you on my TV screen again! I missed you!
I started realizing that USA really enjoyed employing character actors that I loved from other gigs – Royal Pains stars Mark Feuerstein, the man who won my heart as the hot young vet on Caroline in the City; his brother is played by Paulo Costanzo of Road Trip and Josie and the Pussycats fame; White Collar? Not only employs Sharif Atkins, formerly Dr. Gallant of ER, and Willie Garson, my second favourite fabulous gay man from Sex and the City, but Matt Bomer, the blue-eyed hunk from Chuck; and then, this past summer, Covert Affairs premiered starring Piper Perabo from Coyote Ugly, Sendhil Ramamurthy from Heroes (aka, The Hottest Brown Man I’ve Ever Met,) Peter Gallagher from The OC and Christopher Gorham from MY TEENAGE FANTASIES. Oh, and Ugly Betty, Popular, Medical Investigation, Out Of Practice, Harper’s Island, and basically a whole bunch of other crap that got canceled but I watched anyway because, hi, CHRISTOPHER GORHAM. As if his presence alone wasn’t enough to make me love the show, it’s basically just Alias-lite: A hot, young female CIA agent trying to save the world, but more fun action and less complex, angsty mythology. Love it.
Why am I regaling you with tales of my USA Network love? Well, two reasons really:
1) I really, really want more people in my life to watch these shows. Because they’re incredibly smart and funny and well-written and well-acted and just… fun. USA’s slogan is, “Characters welcome,” and it sums up the network nicely. It may not be award-winning dramas they’re producing, but the characters they create are memorable and intriguing enough to keep you coming back for me. Or, at least keep me coming back for more.
2) A new USA Network show premiered this week and I just watched it. And yep, I’m hooked. Again.
Fairly Legal isn’t the best of the shows on the network, and Sarah Shahi is not nearly as enjoyable for me in this as she was on Life, but Michael Trucco from Battlestar Gallactica is in it. And the protagonist labels people in her cellphone according to Wizard of Oz characters – Stepmom is the Wicked Witch, ex-husband in the Tin Man, brother is the Scarecrow, loyal assistant is the Lion, etc. And there was a Buffy reference in the pilot. I’m sold.
Oh, and PS, in all my youtube-ing and googling today, I cam across this, and I think it might be my new favourite thing. Again, you’d appreciate it more if you watched the shows.