THE SHOW "Necessary Roughness"

WHEN | WHERE Tonight at 10 on USA

advertisement | advertise on newsday

CATCHING UP / WHAT IT'S ABOUT Based on Commack native Donna Dannenfelser, Dani Santino (Callie Thorne) is a mother of two teens and "mental health clinician" employed by a fictional football team (the Hawks). Her main job is to keep their head case of a wide receiver, Terence King (Mehcad Brooks), on the straight and narrow. She's got an assist from trainer and boyfriend Matthew Donnally (Marc Blucas) and fixer Nico (Scott Cohen) -- who couldn't prevent King's being shot in a crowded nightclub in last season's finale.

TK's back tonight and on the mend, though his near-death experience has changed him ("I was blind, but now I see."). What he "sees," however, may be closer to delusional than real. Dani, worried that he has post-traumatic stress disorder, has to get his head in shape for a new season -- and fast, because the Hawks are bankrupt.

MY SAY Somebody up there loves "Necessary Roughness," as this second season pretty much proves. Thorne even got a Golden Globe nod last season for her portrayal of the tough-tender sports shrink. But compared to the other members of the slick quartet of returning USA hits this week -- ("Royal Pains," plus "Suits" and "Burn Notice," both back tomorrow), "Roughness" still feels bland and unexceptional. Thorne remains what's best about this idea in the first place. She brings that same comic sensibility that worked some magic on "Rescue Me."

BOTTOM LINE You got into this last season, and there's no earthly reason why you shouldn't make a return date. But don't blame me if I don't tag along: I just don't get the appeal.

advertisement | advertise on newsday