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Exploring The Bland Interchangeability Of USA Network Shows

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | June 19, 2013 | Comments ()


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The USA Network specializes in a very specific brand of television. It all started over ten years ago when they stumbled on a surprise hit with "the defective detective" series "Monk." Ever since, they've been churning out enjoyably bland sausage in the form of hour-long high-concept dramas and dramedies. Though the USA Original Programming airs year-round, they ramp up the sausage factory in the summer, stuffing the holes in your DVR. Their smorgasbord of cop/legal/con shows are just the thing for mindless summer entertainment or to provide your folks with non-challenging TV fodder. All in all, I take no issue with USA. It's like being offended by the breeze.

I do, however, take issue with their wildly inaccurate catchphrase "Characters Welcome." Inspired, no doubt, by the antics of Monk and Shawn Spencer, this jaunty little slogan is emblazoned on every speck of advertising. But the concept of character (or even nuanced performance) is what is undeniably absent from the USA slate. In fact, carrying the sausage metaphor well past the breaking point, every single one of these shows is made from the same ingredients crammed into a slightly different casing. No, USA, we're not dealing with characters. We're dealing with archetypes and cliches. So be real about what you're dishing up this summer and don't try to serve me pig snouts and tell me it's bratwurst.

The Clean-Cut Con Artists/Man Children
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Blonde Law Enforcement Agents Who Rock The Sh*t Out Of A Pantsuit
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Impossibly Handsome Rogue Agents Who Live At The Beach
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Ever So Slightly Less Handsome Comic Relief That Also Live At The Beach
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Gun-Toting, Badass Babes Who, You Guessed It, Live At The Beach
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Hard-As-Nails Boss Ladies Who Are Seriously Tired Of Your Sh*t
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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Haystacks

    I was with you until you put Dule Hill in the "less handsome" Catagory.

  • Those two 'babes' are completely indistinguishable from one another. I bet they'll have really successful and fruitful careers.

  • Nina

    You did a good job of breaking down the "formula". But that doesn't change the fact thatsome of these shows are well written, with a decent plot, some really good dialogue, and have pretty good acting talent. You seem to be buying into the premise that "dark and edgy"=good art.

    All Disney movies have similar theme. All superhero movies have similar premise. Shakespeare's stories had similar struggles...That's why we have the word called "genre". Not everyone is looking for "edgy" some of us seek "blue skies" on our tube. Different strokes for different folks. Not need to diss because you like it different.

  • dizzylucy

    I've always kind of loved Psych, and when USA had some success with that and started ramping up the original series, I tried most of them - some for an entire season or more.

    Psych is the sole survivor.

  • Bodhi

    Psych is glorious, but the last season was, well, meh, & I fear for the next, since Juliet has signed on for a new show

    She really can rock the shit out of a pant suit, though

  • Semilitterate

    And all this time I thought USA was NCIS all day---every day

  • Monica

    Just Saturdays, mostly...

    ...and sometimes Sundays if there's a good theme, like memorial day or NCIS-intensive-Labor day or Halloween Scary Navy Cops day...

    ...and early evenings before the nightly programming...

    so not ALL day, EVERY day.

  • Semilitterate

    Don't forget the Abbycentric marathon, or Dinozo gets slapped in the head marathon or the Zivacentric marathon, I swear, it seems to be on ALL the time.

  • alwaysanswerb

    I WILL NOT STAND for Matt Bomer being DISRESPECTED like this! I don't care if he plays the blandiest McBlanderson in all of Afblandistan! Some light through yonder TV breaks; it is the east, and Matt Bomer's face is the sun. So say we all, amen.

  • delle

    I don't watch any of these shows and have no idea who Matt Bomer is, but I had to upvote this because Awesome.

  • Stellamaris2012

    and your issue is... sorry, I love me some USA programming. Pretty people wearing pretty clothes having pretty problems that get tied up in the span of an hour.

    And excuse me, are we REALLY dissing shows that give us the hotness-likes of
    Neal Caffrey, Harvey Spector and Michael Westin?? Really? Plus all the pretty ladies?

  • Mrs. Julien

    I'd watch these shows if I got to "live at the beach".

  • Muhnah_Muhnah

    Yeah I can't deal with USA shows. I used to watch Burn Notice, but lost interest.

  • I watch a lot of USA shows... but Burn Notice has gone past the point of crazy. I blame it on Jeffrey Donovan becoming an Executive Producer. Things got very serious at about that point and there weren't nearly as many eating yogurt scenes.

  • Devin McMusters

    C'mon, don't crap on my Royal Pains! Divya is a goddess!

  • Michelle

    I can't even with USA since they abruptly cancelled The 4400. I know that my husband and I were likely the only ones watching, but seriously - way to cancel a show right as the last season ended on a GIANT CLIFFHANGER.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    That was show that I actually felt more or less steadily improved as it went on. I had just gotten pretty into it by the time they finally killed it.

  • Michelle

    Yes! The fourth season was great and then boom! Cancelled. And don't even get me started that Heroes aired shortly thereafter and was essentially the same basic premise.

  • io

    The actors on Suits have great chemistry. And I cannot wait for it to start up again.

  • Amanda Cotylo

    If there's another Harvey Spector of badassery and sexiness on another one of their shows since they're so interchangeable and all please let me know. Cuz I would ride that character like the last boat to America.

  • BlackRabbit

    You might like his brother Marc. He won't show up till a Halloween episode, though.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Michael Westen. He's the superspy Harvey Spector. Or actually, Harvey Spector is the superlawyer Michael Westen. Something like that.

    I watch too many USA Network shows, guys.

  • No such thing as too much! If they pass the time enjoyably, then all good in my book. Also, I watch a lot of USA shows too. I blame my mom and early access to cable tv. Up All Night used to be my jam.

  • Up All Night as in the late night movie block on USA back in the day....

  • melissa82

    With Elvira running the mini marathon, right? LOVED that shit. I would watch it after the kids I was babysitting had gone to sleep. And then I would wait, terrified, for their parents to come home. Ah, good times.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    My only request is just that they get around to playing down Mike's secret already. It made zero sense before he got the hacked Harvard degree, and only made ever so slightly more sense after. Whenever it's focused on, I tend to have my suspension of disbelief spoiled, which distracts me from drooling over Sarah Rafferty and Meghan Markle.

  • Three_nineteen

    How about this: Mike realizes what he is doing is wrong and resigns. The rest of the show goes on as usual.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Not bad, but I do kind of like Mike. They should've just hired the dude as a paralegal, problem solved.

  • Scully

    These shows are a godsend to those of us stuck on treadmills at the gym. I have actually written letters to USA Network, asking them to air these shows instead of, like, Chuck Norris, because I am a sad, sad person.

    And yeah, I watch this network every morning and I can’t tell these shows apart. Except for Matt Bomer. Because obviously.

  • Bodhi

    Yes! I love HGTV, but fuck I tired of the repeats of Property Brothers

  • Meg

    Oh my god, USA is easily the best gym buddy ever. I would purposefully show up at the beginning of any hour and then just sweat through 60 minutes of what ever USA show/Law&Order rerun was playing. It was literally the only thing that made me make my workouts last longer than 20 minutes.

  • FrayedMachine

    WHOA. wHOA. Gus is a very very *very* handsome man. He is honestly way more handsome than Shawn. Way way wwaay more handsome.

  • Adrien

    I agree, Dule's a fine looking man. Who's the other guy next to Gus? He looks like Jarrad Rohrback, the son of the prancerscise lady on that John Mayer Paper Dolls video.

  • Lisa

    LOL!!! That was my same exact reaction.

  • JJ

    Exactly. AND he used to be the assistant to the President of the United States. Dulé!

  • Wembley

    Don't forget he was "Bud" on The Cosby Show.

  • e jerry powell

    NOT.

    Dulé Hill and Deon Richmond, despite apparently popular misconception, are, in fact, TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE.

    Dulé Hill did appear on one episode of "Cosby" (the CBS show) in 1997.

    Richmond is three years younger than Hill.

    [/indignant black man]

  • Wembley

    Being mistaken for Bud is a running joke on the show.

  • e jerry powell

    And black people being indistinguishable from each other is a joke that runs throughout history.

    But okay...

  • FrayedMachine

    As much as I would usually agree with this, within the context of the show (and the fact that he actually kind of does look like Bud from the Cosby Show), I wouldn't be quick to take offense.

    And also for the record, all groups of people, at one point in time, have been accused of all looking the same. I will even admit right now that sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing between white people (like that whole running joke of all those big blue eyed brunette actresses in hollywood that look the same. Sometimes I honestly have a hard time).

    The issue usually just comes from not actively being around that group very often, so you have a hard time distinguishing subtle differences.

    TL;DR, please don't make a mountain out of literally nothing.

  • e jerry powell

    I'll take your word for it.

  • FrayedMachine

    I'm sorry, I don't think you fully comprehend what people are referring to. He looks a lot like the -child- version. Kids often times grow up and their features extend and enlarge to make them look like adults. A lot of the similarities between Bud at the time of being on the show and Hill now have a lot to do with their facial proportions. And also good job evading everything else that was stated!

    TL;DR - Trying to use the adult photo of him as opposed to the child photo is basically evading the comparison entirely. But no, no, go along thinking that everyone is trying to say that all black people look the same, it's okay.

  • e jerry powell

    Whatevs. I grant you nothing, but I'm also not engaging any further.

    Nope. Tell you what. When you can find me a picture of Dule Hill from 1983 that looks ANYTHING like Dion Richmond from 1986, then we'll talk.

    And: apart from self-selection, why are you (specifically) even talking to me about this?

  • FrayedMachine

    Are your comprehension skills that dense or do you really just get off on jabbering absolutely nothing?

    The joke is that HIll (NOW) reminds us of Bud (THEN). Or is that not linear enough for you to grasp onto?

    If you want me to stop responding to you then I guess you think that you actually have nothing positive or constructive to add or actually feel like you're incapable of comprehending what's being stated. To which I say - Congrats to you for having that sort of level of self-reflection.

    [/Sassy mouthed black woman because seriously, what's your problem]

  • e jerry powell

    [/Sassy mouthed black woman because seriously, what's your problem]

    That explains a lot.

    I took the message easily several posts ago, you just wouldn't LEAVE IT BE until I acknowledged that you were right.

    Guess what? I don't do that.

  • FrayedMachine

    OH. I didn't know that acknowledging and comprehending a message was expressed by STILL DENYING IT.

    Mmmkay, hon. Go home and let the adults talk.

  • e jerry powell

    And once again, WHATEVS.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Yep. That man sure is a tall glass of Ovaltine.

    ...Jenkins.

  • tmoney

    I'm partial to Chesterfield McMillian and Wife, along with Jonathan Jacob "Jingly" Schmidt, myself.

  • Fredo

    Even the names of their shows are interchangeable!

    Burn Notice
    Covert Affairs
    Necessary Roughness
    Royal Pains
    White Collar
    Suits
    WWE Raw

    Interchangeable!

  • Batesian

    I disagree. USA has a ton of unique original programming. Don't forget their other shows, including:

    Raw Burn
    Royal Affairs
    Necessary Pains
    Covert Notice
    White Suits
    Collar
    WWE: Roughness

  • Stellamaris2012

    It's like Nora Roberts' romance novels... the titles have absolutely nothing to do with the storyline, but who cares? You'll enjoy the ride...

  • DataAngel

    I think Investigation Discovery has "White Affairs".

  • Wembley

    Covert Roughness-that's the one about Government Agents who beat up criminals and terrorists, but leave them alive so they can mend their ways, right?

  • No, it's about a spy and her professional athlete boyfriend who are into BDSM an trying desperately to make sure no one finds out.

  • Pawesl

    True. I know Matt Bomer is in one of those shows but I can never remember if it's Burn Notice or White Collar. As such I have yet to watch either from said confusion.

  • PDamian

    Necessary Suits -- about a lawyer who hates casual Fridays.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    It's actually Covert Pains. He plays a doctor to the spies.

    ETA: Motherfucking dibs, BTW. And does anyone know who you call to sell USA one of these shows?

    ETA2: Upon further consideration, yes. Covert Pains definitely has perfect potential for a USA Network show. Someone get me in touch with those guys.

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